Knight in line for Derbyshire
Further evidence, if it was needed, of the potential of our young talent was supplied by Tom Knight in the second team T20 matches against Durham today.
Keeping in mind that the visitors included the likes of Ben Stokes and Gareth Breese in their side, our young eleven did very well to come out of the two games with honours even.
In the first, a fine all-round effort by England man Stokes saw Durham to a win, despite a fine spell of 3-17 in four overs by David Wainwright and a top score of 33 by Ticknall's Tom Wood.
The second game produced sensational cricket, with Durham posting what appeared an unassailable 205-6 in twenty overs.
It would have been, except for an extraordinary innings from Tom Knight (pictured), who opened the batting and saw the team to victory with a brilliant, unbeaten 99 from just 54 balls, with seven fours and seven sixes. He was well supported by trialist Pete Drysdale, a New Zealander who played with great success for Spondon last year before joining Scholes in the Huddersfield League for this summer. Drysdale contributed 57 from 31 balls before Greg Cork came in and saw the team to stunning seven wicket win with seven balls to spare, finishing the game with a six. That is a serious run chase...
Some may find it hard to believe the difference in Knight, a lad who made his senior debut while still at school. There was criticism of his weight and fielding from some quarters, realistically from people who should have known better. How many schoolboys expect to be playing county cricket and are fit enough to do so? Likewise, it is unrealistic to expect such lads to field with the intensity of full-time professionals. Meanwhile, Knight's batting was competent, at best.
His bowling has always looked the part, however, from his debut against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge in the T20 of 2011, when he looked not at all fazed by the big occasion. He is still only 20 but his all-round game has improved immeasurably in the intervening period, now as lean as the proverbial butcher's dog and someone who fields impressively. His bowling action is in the process of being re-modeled and during one of the lunchtimes in the recent Hampshire game he was being filmed and watched by Ant Botha, the spin bowling coach.
If this work results in a more 'grooved' action and enables the bowler to get more control and purchase, there will be no complaints, but it is his batting that has made people sit up. There were several examples of successful pinch-hitting on his trip to Australia a couple of winters back and he has contributed steady runs at all levels since this summer began.
He will be well aware that modern cricket offers less opportunities for a specialist like Panesar or Tufnell. More to the point, he will be aware that his quest for the lead spinner role at Derbyshire depends on his out-bowling David Wainwright, while being able to contribute a similar quantity of runs.
I think Knight will enjoy senior opportunities this summer while his new actions 'beds in' but will push strongly to be lead spinner from next year. By that stage I don't expect there to be much between the two left-armers and the performance money for a home-reared talent will be a persuasive argument for Knight gaining prominence.
I'm convinced we'll see one of the left-armers in the side on Friday night, probably in the place of the absent Shivnarine Chanderpaul. Neither will let us down, but it is patently clear that Knight's cause cannot be ignored for much longer.