Richard Edwards finds that Jake Ball is eager to join a county team-mate at this year’s Ashes
Jake Ball has lauded the impact of James Pattinson at Trent Bridge – and is eyeing an Ashes reunion with him Down Under this winter.
Aussie ace Pattinson has been Nottinghamshire’s star of the show so far and has taken 20 wickets in his first three County Championship appearances, playing a key role in polishing off Leicestershire, Durham and Sussex in the Outlaws’ sprint to the top of the Division Two table following relegation last summer.
Ball himself has taken eight wickets at a cost of 28 during that run and goes into a hectic period of one-day cricket with England in fine fettle.
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He admits, though, that, like Pattinson, he already has more than one eye on that Ashes series that is looming this winter.
“It has been amazing having James around and a great experience to open the bowling with him at Durham,” says Ball.
“He’s just a really, really good bloke and has fitted into the team really well. What he’s doing on the pitch means the lads are absolutely loving him because we’re not spending too long out on the field!
“It would obviously be great to be involved in the Ashes with him – that’s the plan. I’ll keep feeding him biscuits and giving him cups of tea to make sure he pitches it up if I come up against him in the middle!
“That’s one of my other goals for the summer – getting in the Test team and trying to secure a place for the Ashes. That’s the sort of thing you dream about as a kid and hopefully I’ll have the chance to try and put my mark on the Test team and get a place on that plane.”
Ball has three Test caps to his name so far but first up for the 26-year-old this year are one-day series against Ireland and South Africa before a Champions Trophy that England go into as favourites, an unusual position for a side that have never won a major global 50 over competition.
“That was my first goal of the summer – to get into that Champions Trophy squad and to be selected for that is amazing,” he says.
“We’ve got Ireland and South Africa before that so we’ve got a good chance to get everyone together so that when the tournament comes around we can hit the ground running.”
Ball’s performances for England in white ball cricket should see him play a prominent role in the 50 over format this summer, with the Nottinghamshire man keen to replicate his performances this winter.
His 5-51 against Bangladesh represented an outstanding debut in Dhaka and one that he built on in India, despite England losing the series 2-1.
His box of tricks in the 50 over game offers Three Lions captain Eoin Morgan a range of options at both the start and the end of the innings and Ball knows that his ability to bowl at the death, and take key wickets in the closing stages of an innings, is one of his main attributes.
“I think my death bowling for one-day cricket is one of my big strengths, it’s something that I like to pride myself on – my yorkers, slower balls and slower ball bouncers, mixing it up,” he says.
“At the start (of the innings) I try to bowl a Test length and most batsmen would say they find that hard to hit. It’s something that I’ve worked on at Notts. Our big thing is yorkers and we practise them at every session. It works, too.
“You can execute the best slower delivery you’ve ever bowled but the batsman can pick it and smash it for six. If you bowl a perfect yorker the maximum you’re going to go for is a four. It’s that element of being brave. You have to trust in yourself and trust in the ball that you’re going to bowl.”
Ball won’t be short of familiar faces in England’s Champions Trophy dressing room, with county colleague, Alex Hales, also likely to be a major figure for Morgan’s side on home soil come June.
Hales – who has scored five hundreds in 41 ODIs – returned to the side for the final match of the one-day series against West Indies back in March after missing the Bangladesh tour and being forced to leave India early with a fractured hand.
It was quite some return as the opener smashed 110 off just 107 balls in a routine win. And for Ball that innings merely emphasised Hales’ importance to this England side alongside his opening partner, Jason Roy.
“The freedom that they play with is just great to watch,” says Ball. “There’s no having a look or taking a few overs to get going – if they get delivered a bad ball then they’re going to put it away.
“If you look at the way Alex played in that last ODI, he showed his class. He hadn’t played a game for a few months but to come in and score a hundred on what was quite a difficult pitch to bat on showed his class and just how hard he had been working.”
This piece originally featured in The Cricket Paper, May 5 2017
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