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The lowdown on England Lions’ new skipper Lewis Gregory

It’s been a long time coming, but Somerset all-rounder Lewis Gregory is inching closer to involvement with the England senior cricket setup. The 27-year-old has been in the County Cricket scene since making his Somerset debut in 2010. A first-class bowling average of 25.68 and a first-class batting average of 21.85 has put Gregory on the radar of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) as a potential candidate for the one-day and test sides.

Gregory was nominated as the captain for both the England Lions’ red and white-ball teams during their recent tour of Australia. The all-rounder shared responsibilities with vice-captain Keaton Jennings in the four-day format, with Tom Abell acting as Gregory’s deputy in their one-day contests. Gregory described the appointment as an “honour” and was keen to help “lay a foundation for future England success Down Under”.

The fact that the ECB selected Gregory to skipper the Lions in both modes of the game underlines their faith in him. The Lions squad contained players that have been a part of the senior test team in the past, notably Jennings, Craig Overton, Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley and Mason Crane. It’s therefore a real vote of confidence.

Is Gregory really the ‘modern-day Ian Botham’?

Gregory is no stranger to the national setup, having performed impressively for the England U19s. Against a touring Sri Lanka U19 team, Gregory would shine with bat and ball, taking four wickets in four-day matches and top-scoring with 87 in a one-day match too. Some five years later, Gregory was called up to the senior one-day squad to face Ireland but didn’t play. More recently, Gregory was named in the England test squad to face Ireland in 2019 but again missed out on a chance to play. England selector, Ed Smith noted Gregory’s 44 wickets in 2019 at a first-class average only 13, making him “very deserving of his elevation to the test squad”. With a strike-rate of a wicket each 30.8 balls last year, Gregory was the most potent bowler in County Cricket to have bowled over 200 overs in the season. His Somerset team-mate Jack Brooks has even labelled him a “modern-day Botham”. Like Botham, Gregory is by no means lightning fast, but his accuracy and control has come on leaps and bounds. So too has his batting, hitting 129 not out last season in County Cricket and averaging 53.50 in 2018’s T20 Blast. He now has his eyes fixed firmly on a top order spot for his county.

PA Images

England could certainly do with some more versatile talent in its touring squad before the next Ashes series in the winter of 2021/22. Betway’s latest Ashes 2021/22 cricket odds have the Aussies priced as 4/7 favourites, but new blood like Gregory could give England the zip and tenacity they need to upstage Australia in their own back yard. Gregory has already given the England selectors a flavour of what he can achieve in very un-English cricket conditions. During the Lions’ last winter tour of the UAE and India, Gregory has managed to make a difference even on placid tracks where the ball does very little. This will certainly be the case on the rock-hard pitches Down Under.

Who else could announce their arrival on the big stage in 2021/22?

The Metro believe in Warwickshire’s Olly Stone – providing he can keep fit between now and next winter. The 26-year-old is a bowler with searing pace and bounce, which could be a potent mix on Australian wickets. However, the right-arm fast bowler has endured a torrid time with injury in recent seasons, with serious knee and back injuries keeping him sidelined for much of 2016 and early 2019.

With the bat, hopes are still very much high for 23-year-old Haseeb Hameed. Aged just 19, Hameed became the fifth-youngest county cricketer to hit 1,000 runs in a season. The opener averaged almost 44 in three test matches in the white-hot arenas of India before an alarming loss of form, which saw him released by Lancashire. However, Nottinghamshire have taken a chance on him and leaving his home county could be the kick up the backside he needs to refocus and demonstrate his technical ability. Hameed’s former club cricket team-mate Elliot Ketteringham told Cricket365 that he is a real confidence player and could return to the test fold very quickly. Likened to former technician, Ian Bell, England will certainly need some quick, stylish run scorers against the Aussies.

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