Matt Parkinson endured some dark moments earlier this year when he was the sole England cricketer to undertake the entire three-month tour of Sri Lanka and India and earned zero caps for his troubles.
But on Tuesday the effervescent Lancashire leg-spinner is poised to play a first international at his home ground of Old Trafford, with a Twenty20 series against Pakistan on the line and a chance to further his claims for a spot in England’s World Cup squad this October.
These were certainly advanced on Sunday when in tandem with fellow wrist-spinner Adil Rashid, and augmented by Moeen Ali’s previously lesser-spotted off-breaks, Parkinson helped bowl England to series-levelling win on a roasting hot afternoon at Headingley.
Parkinson’s one for 25, including Azam Khan stumped for one, sat within wider figures of five for 87 in 11 overs for the spin trio as England successfully defended a target of 201; it may have personally been a winter of discontent but the 24-year-old claims to now be feeling the benefits.
“It was a tough three months not playing, with some dark moments in some rooms in hotels in India,” said Parkinson. “But to have three months bowling each day to the likes of Joe Root, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, I realised when I got back home after about a month how much I’d improved.”
Parkinson is full of praise for Rashid and, as the junior man with just nine white-ball caps, accepts England are unlikely to deploy two leg-spinners on a regular basis. After all, he notes, Shane Warne and Stuart MacGill played just 16 Tests together for Australia and, though both predated T20, not a single one-day international.
England’s leggies are very different bowlers, with Rashid quicker through the air and more confident in his googly.
The pitches in the United Arab Emirates, scene of the T20 World Cup in October, should turn and Parkinson fancies his slow speeds could actually be a strength.
“I think in the past I’ve probably thought about [my speeds] too much,” Parkinson added. “In South Africa [in early 2020] there was a lot written about it. I was looking up at the board to see if I could push 47mph.
“Last summer I said I’d like to be the only bowler that does it this way. It would be pretty cool not to have to conform to what other spinners do, but actually just be niche. And it might be difficult on some grounds, you’re going to struggle. But I like to think that if there’s a little bit there, I can stick to that.”
It remains to be seen whether England pick all three Lancastrians, although with Liam Livingstone in such form – belting a century during the defeat at Trent Bridge and launching one of the biggest sixes in history on Sunday – and Saqib Mahmood rolling over a hot streak from the one-day internationals, the locals may well get their wish. The chief question is whether Eoin Morgan returns to captain after resting himself and, if so, which batsman makes way. Pakistan, meanwhile, could seal just their second limited-overs series win in England and a first since the two-match Prudential Cup in 1974.
England (possible) Jason Roy, Jos Buttler (wk), Dawid Malan, Moeen Ali, Liam Livingstone, Eoin Morgan (c), Lewis Gregory, Chris Jordan, Adil Rashid, Saqib Mahmood, Matt Parkinson
Pakistan (possible) Mohammad Rizwan (w), Babar Azam (c), Sohaib Maqsood, Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Hafeez, Azam Khan, Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Afridi, Haris Rauf, Mohammad Hasnain