Twenty-year-old Somerset off-spinner Dom Bess was called up to England’s first Test squad of the 2018 summer by new national selector Ed Smith. Here’s what you need to know about him.
ROLE: Right-arm off-spin bowler
WHO THE HELL? A rising star from the seaside town of Sidmouth in Devon, Bess came out of nowhere to become a key bowler during Somerset’s tilt at the County Championship title in 2016, taking 13 wickets in two matches before the Cidermen were pipped at the post by Middlesex. He followed that up by taking 36 wickets at 23.42 in 2017. England were quick to take note, inviting Bess to participate in net preparations during the 2017 series against West Indies.
At the time of his call-up his aggressive off-spin has brought him 63 wickets in just 16 first-class games – at an average of 22.49. He also made a century in the Champion County game for the MCC against Essex and 92 against Hampshire in his last match before England called.
WHAT’S HIS STORY? A former England under 19 international, Bess signed a scholarship contract with Somerset at the age of 16 and broke into the first team in 2016 after excelling for Devon in Minor Counties cricket. He also made a big impression playing for Somerset’s second XI that season, taking regular wickets and hitting two centuries. Bess made his first-class bow against Pakistan in July of 2016, returning match figures of 0-128, but bounced back to take 6-28 on his Championship debut against Warwickshire.
GOOD TIMES? That haul, which included the dismissals of Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell with successive deliveries, was the best by a Somerset debutant for 55 years and Bess took two more second-innings scalps in a 31-run victory at Taunton. He was at it again in Somerset’s final fixture of the campaign, claiming five first-innings wickets in a demolition of Nottinghamshire that briefly took his side to the top of the table. Bess’ rapid progress continued last season, with a seven-for versus Hampshire, a five-wicket haul against Yorkshire and then a fifth five-for in the space of 13 innings, against Surrey – a match in which he also struck his maiden first-class fifty.
CHALLENGES? Bess has so far played a lot of his first-class matches on a fairly spin-friendly Taunton wicket and it will be interesting to see how he goes in conditions that aren’t so conducive. The raw materials are certainly there but developing his craft on pitches that offer little turn will be the next key stage of his cricketing education.
FINAL WORD: “He’s one of the better off-spinners I’ve seen at this stage of a career. We had drinks with the opposition after the second day [during Somerset’s Championship match against Surrey in 2017] and I was interested to see he spent an hour or so picking the brain of Gareth Batty. It’s probably Batty he reminds me of most.” Matt Maynard, former Somerset director of cricket
“He’s had a really terrific start to his first-class career, with bat and ball, and as a character. It’s also true that when he’s been given the opportunity to play in representative teams he’s grabbed those opportunities.” England national selector Ed Smith on Bess’ selection for the first Test of the 2018 summer v Pakistan