Mansfield’s Jake Ball, Nottinghamshire’s exciting young fast bowler, yesterday staked his claim to replace injury doubt Ben Stokes in England’s second test, with an excellent show of swing bowing, capped by two wickets.
Ball may only be available for the opening two days of Nottinghamshire’s Specsavers County Championship match with Hampshire, if he is selected for the Test against Sri Lanka at Durham.
But he quickly showed the form which had brought him 19 wickets this season, after skipper Chris Read had refused the option of a toss to opt to have a bowl.
Peter Moores, Nottinghamshire cricket consultant, said: “I think it was a pretty good day’s cricket but was frustrating because of the rain.
“They will be frustrated because it is hard to go on and off as a batting side and we bowled pretty well and wanted to stay out there.
“Credit to them for getting through that final session and evening the day up.
“They were both very good. Jake has come back from being with England at Headingley and was excited to get back out there, and he bowled well as he has all season.
“It was great for Luke (Fletcher). He came in last game after a couple of injuries and niggles, he bowled well. He was very consistent and created bounce from his good lengths.”
He added: “Jimmy (Anderson) and Stuart (Broad) are good brains to pick for him, but it is nice to just be around it and get a feel for the atmosphere. You learn a lot from watching experienced Test players prepare.
“He is ready to go but it down to whether we want to replace Ben Stokes with an out and out bowler.
“Ben bats very well, so they might want to balance it out by picking someone who bats more than Jake. If they want a bowling option Jake is a good one.”
Ball, whose first two balls whistled past Michael Carberry’s outside edge, finally caught the former England opener’s bat only to see wicketkeeper Read put down the tough diving chance to his left.
Ball, along with Fletcher, put on an exhibition of fast bowling but could not shake off the watchful Jimmy Adams and Carberry.
The pair put on the county’s highest opening stand of the season so far, 45, before Carberry finally put bat on a ball nicking away from him.
Ball had finally got his man an hour after he was dropped – this time snaffled by Notts debutant Dan Christian at third slip.
Adams continued his patient vigil and moved past 12,000 first class runs in his career.
But three runs after passing the milestone Adams became the first of two session-altering wickets for Fletcher – the ex-captain knocking back a caught and bowled chance.
The next ball, with 10 minutes still remaining before lunch, Liam Dawson was pinned on the crease leg before – a serene session ruining for the hosts.
No play was possible though the whole of the afternoon session as rain teamed down, before a major mop-up operation.
Another 14 overs were able to be played in the evening session before the rain returned but the hosts lost another batsman.
Again the ball squirted around the wicket with extreme swing, seam and bounce, the type which had troubled Hampshire all day.
Will Smith – who has become Hampshire four-day captain with James Vince tied up with England – had been the most watchful of the lot with his 16 from 65 balls but became Ball’s second scalp, struck on the pads.
After the last weather break, Hampshire were given a 13 over mini-session to navigate – perfectly steered through by Sean Ervine and youngster Tom Alsop and their 65-run partnership.
Alsop – who scored two 150s for the second XI last week – in particular looked in good touch to end on one short of a county championship best with 32 not out while Ervine reached a quality unbeaten 38.
Giles White, Hampshire director of cricket said: “At one point we were slightly behind the game but in the end we are in a decent position. Tomorrow is obviously very important.
“Both Jake and Luke bowled very well in a testing spell and both got a couple of wickets before lunch. If we were one down we would be in a very good position.
“Fair play to them, but we battled hard and young Alsop played nicely this evening along with Sean Ervine.
“Tom scored a couple of 150s in the twos and is batting nicely but it is about taking that on tomorrow. Hopefully the boys get themselves in and continue and put us in a very nice position in the game.”