By Sam Dalling
ANY lingering doubts as to the importance of lower order runs were dispelled once and for all last week at Trent Bridge where England and India reached stalemate largely thanks to the efforts of those not normally renowned for their batting exploits.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar became only the second man in Test history to make a pair of half-centuries batting at nine, while even Jimmy Anderson got in on the action registering a maiden first-class fifty to drag his side back into the contest.
England’s armoury of all-rounders is well stocked with Messrs Broad, Plunkett, Woakes, Stokes and Jordan all vying for slots in the Test side.
But one man quietly throwing his hat into the ring is Somerset starlet Lewis Gregory. After a blistering start to the 2014 campaign the 22-year-old was sidelined for six weeks by a hamstring injury. But despite this setback the youngster already boasts an impressive 37 County Championship wickets and could yet help his side to a maiden championship crown.
And after helping himself to his first 10 wicket haul this week Gregory admitted that he dreams of one day pulling on an England shirt.
He said: “I want to play for England. For me that’s the be all and end all – to get the opportunity to perform for your country.
“It would be a dream come true. This is an exciting time to be a young cricketer at Somerset and I just want to focus on my game and get better.”
Since signing up in 2010 Gregory has found opportunities in a formidable Somerset side hard to come by. But an injury to teammate Pete Trego gave the former England U19 skipper a chance to impress towards the end of last season.
And the youngster seized the opportunity with both hands, following up a career best 5-38 against Middlesex with a maiden half-century against Derbyshire a week later. Since then he’s not looked back and the Plympton paceman is adamant that a new-found self-belief has been the driving force behind his recent good form.
“Last year I played some good cricket, but didn’t get a huge number of opportunities,” he said. “I felt like I was in good form with the seconds though and got a go against Middlesex.
“I took a few wickets in that game and it was the turning point for me –I took a lot of confidence from it.
“After a good winter I started to believe that I belonged in the team and in first class cricket.I got off to a really good start, went out and took some poles in the first few weeks.”
The Devonian enjoyed a dream start to his professional career when he picked up a triple wicket maiden on debut against the touring Pakistanis in 2010 before helping himself to 18 wickets in t20 cricket the following year.
But despite these exploits those in charge at Taunton remain adamant they expect to see the academy graduate flourish in the top order. A career best 69 against Yorkshire in April served as a reminder of his all-round abilities, but with the current top seven boasting over 170 first class tons between them breaking into that line-up will be no mean feat.
For now Gregory is happy to contribute in any which way he can, although the right-hander freely admits one day he sees himself coming in higher.
“It’s really hard to get into the top six here – they all average over 40,” he said. “But the side is about finding a balance.
“That’s the hard thing as a young all-rounder – finding that balance.
“It’s a bit of a catch 22, but I’ve been getting into the team recently. I’m learning and improving every day.
“I see myself up there in the top order in the future and hopefully I can get there but, of course you’ve got to score runs to push your way up.”