Lessons learnt from former Sri Lanka left-arm spinner Rangana Herath helped Dom Bess to grab his maiden five-wicket test haul on Saturday after he was drafted into the England squad as cover for the ailing Jack Leech.
Bess removed South Africa’s first five batsmen to leave the home team on 208-6 at the close of a rain-affected third day of the third test. With the hosts still 291 runs behind, Bess’s exploits left England poised to take a 2-1 lead in the four-test series.
The 22-year-old had not been selected for the tour but was flown in as a cover after his Somerset club mate Leech succumbed to a mystery virus at the start of the tour.
“It’s funny how cricket happens, it’s funny how the ride goes,” Bess said.
“Certainly, today I’ll cherish for a long time because I’ve worked for days like this.”
That included an England spinning camp at the start of December in Mumbai where he worked with Herath, who took over 400 test wickets.
Bess said the delivery he bowled to remove South Africa captain Faf du Plessis had come from being coached by Herath.
Bess, who made his test debut in 2018 against Pakistan after injury to Leech, hopes that Saturday’s haul will finally allow him to emerge from his club mate’s shadow.
“I’ve had to perform when I’ve got opportunity because Leechy is such a class performer. That’s been the nature of my journey so far but I think I’m a lot further in my journey than I was before,” he said.
England did not play a spinner in the first test against South Africa but Bess jumped ahead of Matt Parkinson in the pecking order for the second test in Cape Town, when Leech was still sick, after impressing England’s coaches with his work in the nets.
Leech has since gone home to recover, handing Bess more opportunity.
“I know he (Leech) will be working hard to get ready for (the series against) Sri Lanka and hopefully, if I get picked I would love to bowl together with him,” Bess said.