SOMERSET and Sidmouth spin bowler Dom Bess has been included in the England side for the second Test against South Africa, beginning today (Friday) in Cape Town.
With the tourists being struck down by illness and injury (opener Rory Burns being ruled out after an incident playing football yesterday), Devon age-group graduate Bess has an opportunity to impress - having not been included in the original squad.
Jack Leach has been among the worst affected by the sickness bug in the camp, ruling him out of the first and now this second Test - and leading to Bess and Somerset team-mate Craig Overton being called up as cover.
Bess turned out for England against Pakistan in 2018, but has been largely invisible since.
In a breath-taking two years he had claimed five bags of five with his off-spin in his first six County Championship starts, another on debut for the England Lions in Antigua, before making a ton for the MCC in the annual season-opening fixture
Bess was readying himself to become the youngest finger spinner to represent his country in a Test with Vic Marks - a former Somerset and England spinner – presenting the cap.
The next fortnight was eventful. At Lord’s he was wicketless and largely ineffective with the ball but compiled an assured 57 with the bat – mostly alongside Joss Buttler – to give the hosts faint hope from an otherwise dire match.
At Headingley, Bess made 49 further impressive runs (coming in as the nightwatchman) before claiming his first three England wickets. He also snaffled a spectacular one-handed catch off Jimmy Anderson’s bowling.
When the Test side reassembled to play India in August 2018, he was overlooked for the returning Moeen Ali.
Bess was demoted to Somerset’s second XI barely a month after contributing to a Test win. So often the lot in life of a spinner when competing for one spot, Jack Leach – his county teammate too – was the senior man with no further room at the inn.
Bess was loaned out to Yorkshire during the 2019 season and played for games before returning to Taunton for the last lap of the season.
On his return, he claimed his first five-wicket haul for two seasons, finishing with 26 scalps at a useful average of 26.
Bess remained in the thinking of England’s decision-makers to the extent he was taken on a Lions spin camp in Mumbai this winter. There, under the tutelage of Sri Lanka’s Rangana Herath and the former England twirler Richard Dawson, he impressed sufficiently to become the man to call for when county clubmate Leach fell ill.
Bess has seen off Lancashire leg-spinner Matt Parkinson for a place, at number nine in the order.
England team: Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley, Joe Denley, Joe Root (c), Ben Stokes, Ollie Pope, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Dom Bess, Stuart Broad, James Anderson.