When the time comes for Jimmy Anderson to hang up his bowling boots, Matt Bullin argues that England have a ready made replacement in Nottinghamshire’s Jake Ball.
Jake Ball made his limited overs debut for Nottinghamshire way back in 2009 versus Sussex in the Pro40 competition, so it may come as a surprise to some that he did not make his Championship debut until the summer of 2014.
He took a modest 18 wickets in five Championship and seven limited overs games in 2014. But since then it’s been a rapid rise for Ball, who has cricket in his blood- being the nephew of former Notts and England wicket-keeper Bruce French.
In 2015 Ball came back stronger, fitter and most importantly quicker to take 39 Championship wickets and earn himself a spot on England’s fast bowling development programme at the end of the season, as well as a place in the Lions squad.
The development programme helped Ball gain yet another extra yard of pace as he came back to Notts at the beginning of the 2016 season with the ability to bowl 90mph+ deliveries consistently.
And he got off to a flier in the 2016 Championship picking up six wickets in both Notts’ opening fixtures including a stunning five-few against Surrey which included the wicket of Kumar Sangakkara.
But the buzz around Ball really started when Notts played Yorkshire in the third game of the season.
In Yorkshire’s first innings he ripped through the top order, taking the wickets of Adam Lyth, Gary Ballance, Joe Root and Andrew Gale. And he came back for more in the second innings dismissing Lyth and Root again, as well as picking up the wicket of Jonny Bairstow. Giving Ball tidy match figures of 7-125 against the 2015 Champions.
After these performances Ball incredibly found himself being touted by pundits for an England test place- incredible for a man who before 2015 had not nailed down a spot in Notts’ Championship side.
After being twelth man in the Sri Lanka series his England test debut finally came in the first Test versus Pakistan as he replaced England’s leading test wicket taker Jimmy Anderson. Ball struggled to make much of an impact in what is to this date his only test, taking 1-51 in the first innings and going wicketless in the second.
But his Championship form continued throughout the summer- enabling him to take 49 Championship wickets in just 11 games at 23.12 apiece.
His late season form which saw him gain a winter England ODI call up saw him take nine wickets against eventual champions Middlesex including a fantastic hat trick picking up the wickets of Sam Robson, Nick Compton and night-watchman Ollie Rayner, as well as a stunning 6-57 in the final match of the season against Somerset.
Ball proved he was of international quality on ODI debut as he became the first Englishman to take a ODI five-fer on debut- his 5-51 helped England win the first ODI of the series against Bangladesh, and he played in the next two matches too picking up a further two international wickets.
Ball’s strong and consistent bowling action means he is able to bowl the right line and lengths at pace, as well as possessing a mean bouncer and the ability to move the ball off the seam.
At 25 Ball still has his best years ahead of him and if he continues on his meteoric rise it will not be long until he’s an England regular.
By Matt Bullin
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