By Chris Stocks
Jamie Porter has been backed to shine for England if he is given his chance at Lord’s next week after missing out on the team for the first Test against India at Edgbaston.
The Essex seamer earned his first international squad call-up for the series opener in Birmingham, but with England insisting their seamers will be rotated over the course of five Tests in six weeks, Porter may be called on sooner rather than later.
The 25-year-old has taken 158 County Championship wickets since the start of the 2015 season and James Foster, the Essex wicketkeeper, believes Porter, who missed out on selection at Edgbaston to Surrey’s Sam Curran, has the right temperament to shine if given the opportunity to make his Test debut.
“He’s one of those guys, you look at how he’s performed over the last three years he thoroughly deserves the opportunity,” said Foster. “He’s a real competitor, if he gets the chance he will enjoy it, relish it. He’s one of those guys who will get excited about it rather than overawed. This is my impression and I’ve seen a lot of him. He’ll be excited and see it as a challenge.”
Porter does not deliver express pace and is seen by many as too similar to England’s other right-arm seam bowlers in James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes to offer the attack any real variation.
Foster, though, rejects that analysis, saying: “I disagree. I don’t think he’s anything like Jimmy as a bowler. He may be similar in pace, but he comes from a different angle, and is a different type of bowler to Jimmy.
“Ports with the new ball is a real threat. One of the biggest things I noticed last season was that when he came back for his second and third spells, he was still fizzing the ball through to me like that first spell.
Also he still created and made things happen with the old ball as well.
“He has always kept improving, but I don’t necessarily mean his tally of wickets – just the way he’s bowling. Last season in particular he was just absolutely relentless.
“But he has also bowled very well to left-handers in the last year, which in the past you’d say was not his strength. We were aware a lot of Division One sides happen to have a lot of left-handers so a few of us were wondering how Ports would go, but he excelled.
“His angles are very different to the other guys. He’s not a massive swinger of the ball but he swings it just enough and he’s mainly a nip bowler, which is one of the hardest type of bowlers to face because it’s difficult to line them up. You don’t know if it will nip away or nip in. It’s tough.”
Porter also received more backing from a familiar face at Essex this week in the form of Alastair Cook.
The opener has played an England-record 157 Tests – including the latest one at Edgbaston – so knows a good bowler when he sees one.
And Cook, England’s all-time record run-scorer, is in no doubt Porter has what it takes to prosper at the highest level.
“This is a guy who has been produced by county cricket: a really good English bowler. He’s earned his right to selection with, what is it, 170-odd wickets in the last three years. He challenges the top-order to play at a lot of balls and nips it around with the new Dukes ball. He’s an absolute trier. He always runs in all day for Essex and he’s fitted in pretty well. I have a lot of admiration for him.
“When I first saw him, you’d never have said he would be in this situation. So it’s only down to the way he’s worked and the unwavering belief that he can get good players out with good balls, and then constantly do it. If he gets his chance next week or whenever, I’ll be very proud that I’ve seen a guy come on to the [Essex] staff at 22 – which is quite late – and now, when he’s 25, in a short space of time has become Essex’s strike bowler and the guy everyone turns to. That’s down to his real hard work and skill, which people don’t really talk about.”
Cook and Foster, who between them have 33 years of first-class experience, don’t offer praise highly. They see something special in Porter and England might see just why at Lord’s.
The Cricket Paper is on sale all year round! Make the summer one to remember by subscribing: http://bit.ly/TCP-Sub