(Photo: Getty Images)
By Chris Stocks
The meteoric rise of Dom Bess is another success story for Somerset, the off-spinner becoming the third player from Taunton’s academy after Craig Overton and Jack Leach to make his England Test debut in the past six months.
When Bess stepped onto the field at Lord’s this week, he became, at 20 years and 306 days, England’s youngest-ever finger spinner.
Called into the squad after Leach, his fellow Somerset spinner, broke a thumb last week, Bess has given credit to his team-mate, who made his Test debut against New Zealand at Christchurch in March following two prolific County Championship seasons.
“What we’re doing down at Somerset now, we’ve got a lot of youngsters and we drive each other on,” said Bess.
“Leachy and I are competing for that spot, and for me I’ve had to look at my batting to try to improve that.
“I’ve played 16 first-class games but back at Somerset I’ve had to take every opportunity I’ve got because of Leachy. Look at his past two years – he’s been phenomenal.
“Every chance I’ve got, I’ve had to take as well. Having that competitive edge with him and working with him – we chat all the time about spin, how to gets certain players out – it’s why I think we’ve really grown.”
Bess also credits time at the Darren Lehmann Academy in Adelaide in the winter of 2015-16 for much of his progression.
It is a familiar path trodden by no less than England captain Joe Root.
“I went there as an 18-year-old. Going to Australia for the first time, I had a group of lads there – Graham Clark from Durham, George Hankins from Gloucestershire, Owen Morgan (Glamorgan) – and we trained hard.
“As an 18-year-old you also enjoy it. But you learn how to cook and clean which obviously mum always did for me!
“That’s where the stepping stone really was.”
Leaving his home-town club of Sidmouth, where his dad Russ and uncle Graham are heavily involved, also proved a breakthrough moment for the youngster.
“I was 14 and there was a spinner there called Charlie Myles.
“He was very good and I never got my opportunity. I thought if I really want to kick on, I have to move club.
“It was a big deal. My mum and dad sat down with me. They always back me. They said if you think this is the best thing, do it.”
He moved on to fellow Devon League Club Exeter and Bess has barely looked back since.
“They were a massive influence,” he says. “They gave me that opportunity at first-team level. When you’re 14, playing first-team cricket against adults, you do develop.
“It’s funny because they always say I always went through the pathway with the 19s stuff. But I was a late developer, I thought.”
Bess is England’s third spinner to make his Test debut this year after Leach and Hampshire’s Mason Crane, who faced Australia in Sydney in January’s Ashes finale.
It is, he believes, a positive sign for English cricket and the domestic game in particular.
“Definitely,” he says. “We’ve still got Matt Parkinson as well at Lancs, I’m really good mates with him and his brother Callum.
“It’s funny because it’s been said there has been a lack of young spinners and now we’ve put an emphasis on spin and you see all these guys coming through and doing well.”
Bess, who spent the winter alongside Leach and Crane with Andy Flower’s Lions, adds: “The Lions was so competitive – Andy Flower was very happy with how competitive it was.
“I think it’s very promising.”
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