The latest Sussex player to join the ranks of England’s internationals admits his call-up took him completely by surprise. Chris Nash, opening batsman in four-day cricket and emerging all-rounder across shorter formats, was having an eve-of-match dinner with Ed Joyce and Mike Yardy in Worcester a fortnight ago when England selector Geoff Miller rang to interrupt the main course.
“The call came completely out of the blue,” said Nash. “I certainly haven’t got Geoff’s number in my phone contacts so it was a big shock and I suppose it was more enjoyable because of that. It was not on my radar to play for England Lions this summer.”
But play he will, in a three-match one-day series against Sri Lanka A starting in Worcester on Friday August 12 and also including matches at Trent Bridge and Northampton.
Nash has been here before. Well sort of. In 2010 he was chosen for a winter Lions’ series against Pakistan in UAE but had to pull out after he broke his thumb during pre-tour preparations. Back then he was regarded as in the next bracket down of batsmen below those at international level. But not, as seems to be the case now, in one-day but Test cricket.
“My one-day stats didn’t add up at the time which I was cool about,” he said. “Since then I have scored a lot of runs in four-day cricket but now I am starting to make an impact in one-day and t20 cricket as well.”
During his one-day career with Sussex, Nash has batted in virtually every position in the top six apart from No 4. He tends to open in the 40-over format and has occupied that role on many occasions in t20 as well, although some of his most important innings have come down the order when he has come in towards the end to smash it to all parts.
He averages 34.66 in List A cricket and 21.66 in t20 – numbers which would not have earned him this call-up solely as a batsman. What has made the difference since the England selectors last picked him is the manifest improvement in his off-spin bowling.
His economy rates of 5.37 and 6.76 demand respect but as well as keeping things tight Nash has now become a wicket-taker. He actually made his Sussex debut in 2002 as an off-spinner and took four Gloucestershire wickets for just seven runs to help secure an important t20 win last month.
It is rare now for Mike Yardy not to throw him the ball at some stage – which was not always the case. Nash believes his gut instincts as a batsman have benefitted him with a ball in his hand. “I don’t have the same skills as, say, Monty Panesar but as a batsman I can figure things out, stop them hitting me in certain areas,” he said.
“I can bowl a good yorker or back-of-a-length ball which can be hard to hit and stops me being swept a lot. On spinning wickets I do turn the ball and on batsmen-friendly surfaces I can contain them as well. It is something I enjoy.
“It is hard to say what my specific role will be for the Lions in these matches, though. I’d like to think, looking at the squad, that I would open the batting and make myself useful with the ball.”