While Ben Stokes has been hogging the headlines, another youngster has commanded a regular place in Durham’s side this season in the shape of leg-spinning all-rounder Scott Borthwick.
The Sunderland lad, who was 21 last month, went into this week’s match against Warwickshire at Edgbaston as Durham’s leading wicket-taker in the County Championship with 17 at a very respectable average of 26.29.
Additionally, Borthwick wasn’t required to bat against Warwickshire as Durham ran up a first-innings total of 602 for six declared, but as a left-handed No 8, who has also filled in as an opener, he has so far made 262 Championship runs at 37.42.
Borthwick, moreover, is a bundle of energy in the field. During Warwickshire’s first innings he caught Will Porterfield at third slip, Mohammad Yousuf just in front of square leg and swooped from cover to hit the non-striker’s stumps and run out Jim Troughton.
For a couple of years in their Minor Counties days, Durham had two leg-spinners in Peter Kippax and the late Wasim Raja. But since becoming a first-class county they have fielded only two prior to Borthwick.
Mark Briers, from Bedfordshire, was on the staff for the first two seasons in 1992 and 1993 but took only 12 first-class wickets at 57.5. Then, after being nurtured at length in the academy, Scotland-born Moneeb Iqbal played in two Championship matches in 2006. He took only two wickets and was released the following year.
Although Borthwick says he finds it very rewarding to spin the ball past a right-hander’s bat, he has taken a lot of his wickets with googlies or the one which skids on to gain an lbw verdict.
The only reasons Borthwick can give for taking up leg spin were that he was too small to bowl fast and he was inspired by Shane Warne. “He was always my hero and I watched a lot of him as a kid,” said Borthwick. “I never tried off-spin, even though it’s easier to control the ball.”
Borthwick’s dad, George, played for Whitburn in the Durham Senior League and his uncle David was a wicketkeeper-batsman who had a few games for Nottinghamshire seconds.
Scott played for Durham’s age group teams before joining the academy at 16. He toured South Africa with England Under-19s in 2009 and was promoted to Durham’s full-time staff that season.
His first-class debut came at the Rose Bowl in the penultimate match of the 2009 season with the title already won. He scored 26 not out and took three for 95.
That was also the season in which Essex’s James Foster hit him for five sixes off the first five balls of an over to finish a 40-over league match.
“It was at the end of the season and I went to New Zealand for four or five months and did a lot of work with Paul Wiseman, who had finished playing for Durham a year earlier.
“I remember saying to him if I took only one wicket the following year I would like it to be Foster and I had him lbw first ball in the Champions v MCC match in Abu Dhabi.”
Borthwick went to the Darren Lehmann Academy in Adelaide under an ECB scholarship last winter, along with Yorkshire’s Joe Root and Essex’s Jaik Mickleburgh. Among the coaches were former Australia leg-spinner Peter Sleep.
“I was there from October to March,” said Borthwick. “It’s always good to go and learn different skills and it was a big help. We trained and practised from 9am to 3pm Monday to Friday and played on Saturdays. I came back fitter and stronger and learnt a lot.
“I try to give the ball a good rip, but the harder you try to spin it the more it affects your control, especially early in a spell. I need long spells to settle in and work out what pace to bowl at.
“I’ve tried to develop a defensive mode, which I need for one-day cricket. Varying the pace is important, so I bowl it quicker and flatter when I have to. I’ve always wanted to be a professional cricketer. It’s a fantastic life and I enjoy being in a winning side.”