Jake Ball is hoping to drop further hints to the England selectors this weekend when Nottinghamshire face top-of-the-table Lancashire at Trent Bridge in their latest match in the Specsavers County Championship.
Ball made the squad for all three Test matches of the recent Sri Lanka series but was left out of the starting 11 each time. Still waiting for that first cap, the Mansfield-born 25-year old has taken 35 championship wickets at an average of just 22 this season and looked to be in prime form at Edgbaston this week.
In a short spell before lunch, the paceman removed Warwickshire’s Varun Chopra, Andy Umeed and Ian Bell in quick succession – and it was clear that the bowler was enjoying his work.
“It felt nice, said Ball. “I was in a good rhythm, and from what I can gather from Riki Wessels behind the stumps, the ball was coming through at a decent pace, which is very nice to hear, especially when you’re not trying to bowl too quickly. It means your rhythm is clicking and things are in the right place, so I was very pleased with that spell.”
Ball will be hoping to put on a show against Lancashire, knowing that the First Test of the Pakistan series is just around the corner, starting on Thursday, July 14 at Lord’s.
If he does get the call, at least Ball knows that he’ll be recognised this time after getting to meet a few new faces, including head coach Trevor Bayliss for the first time.
“I’ve got to know him and got to know all the players that I didn’t necessarily know that well before. It’s a comfortable environment to be in, so if I do get selected in the Pakistan series, it’ll be a nice time to get in the team. To play at Lord’s would be very special.
“During the Sri Lanka series, I thought I might have played in that Lord’s Test but it didn’t happen, so if it comes around this time against Pakistan, it will be extra special.”
Before then, it’s Lancashire and there are a few scores to settle after the Red Rose defeated Notts at Old Trafford earlier in the season. New Zealand’s Neil Wagner did most of the damage, taking 11 wickets in the match.
“He played well. but we know what he’s about now and we can prepare for that”, said Ball. “He may just have surprised us a bit at their place, but now we know what he’s going to come with and we know how he’s going to bowl, so we can prepare for that and hopefully we can nullify what he does.
“As a team, I think Lancashire surprised us. I think if you asked most people, they perhaps would have been in the mix to go down. But they’ve obviously pulled themselves together and are playing as a team and are playing some good cricket. They’ve got some very experienced players and it’s rubbing off on the younger players, who are doing very well too.
“But, hopefully, we’ve got Stuart Broad back for the weekend, so we’ll be looking for the win.”
For now, it’s all about helping struggling Notts in their quest to climb the Division One table, but Ball is aware that he’s under scrutiny at international level.
“I just try and focus on what I’m doing,” he revealed. “It’s very clichéd, but I’m taking every Notts game as it comes. If I keep performing and keep putting in the displays for them, then I hope it will be that what’s going to get me selected for England.”
The four-day clash with Lancashire starts on Sunday. The visitors currently head the First Division table by nine points from defending champions Yorkshire, while Notts sit perilously close to the relegation zone after just nine win in nine matches.