There is something exciting about a young leg-spinner. More so, perhaps, than an off-spinner or an orthodox left-armer.
Maybe it’s the extra variations, the increased unpredictability or that sense that when a leg-spinner gets it right, you have a genuine match-winner in your ranks.
Lancashire’s Matt Parkinson falls into that category. At just 21 years of age, his breakthrough season came last year with a string of eye-catching performances in the T20 Blast and at the back end of the Championship season.
Over the winter, he has continued that rapid development by playing in Australia on the ECB’s Overseas Placement programme, before playing List A cricket for the first time as part of the Lions and North squads in the Caribbean.
“It was a nice, mixed winter,” Parkinson said.
“Good to play some cricket in Australia for the first time and then to finish it with some List A cricket for the first time as a professional was a great finish to the winter.”
Parkinson represented Sydney’s Gordon Cricket Club in grade cricket for four months – the same club at which fellow leg-spinner Mason Crane excelled the previous winter. The Hampshire bowler was catapulted into England’s Test plans as a result, making his debut in the final Ashes Test in Sydney back in January.
It’s a pathway, therefore, that it’s easy to see Parkinson following. The Bolton-born spinner was pleased to give a good account of himself over the winter but is focused on his work for Lancashire rather than any England aspirations.
“I thought I went quite well in the West Indies, it was suited to spin, I think the wickets over there are getting more and more like the sub-continent.
“It was just nice to be playing 50-over cricket, judging yourself against the best players from the West Indies and then the next up and coming crop in England.
“It’s a funny game and things can change quickly. You just keep your head down with Lancs and let the rest take care of itself really.”
Early-season conditions in England can make life difficult for a spinner. Crane, for instance, struggled to make the Hampshire side at the start of last season, despite his excellent winter.
That’s due to April weather often making seamers a bigger threat on pitches not conducive to spin. But Parkinson has played in two of Lancashire’s opening four matches – missing out on the other two largely because the games were curtailed to three days.
His performance in the latest match against Somerset at Old Trafford certainly caught the eye. With the warm weather, the pitch was dry and brought the leg-spinner into the contest. Parkinson responded with eight wickets in the match and looked at one stage to be spinning his side into a position where they could force a win.
— Lancashire CCC (@LancsCCC) May 7, 2018
“I didn’t feel I bowled that well first innings really,” Parkinson said. “For me it was nice to be landing the ball well (second innings) and when I got those two wickets that’s when we probably had the best chance of rolling them and having a bat.
“It’s all new for me, last season I was out injured at the start so I’m coming into this off the back of a decent winter. I didn’t put any expectation on playing but I thought I’d sort of force myself into the reckoning, to play two out of the four so far is great. Fingers crossed I can play the next ten and have a strong season for the club.”
Parkinson’s opposite number in the Somerset clash was incumbent England Test spinner Jack Leach. The Lancashire man is hoping he can match up to him over the course of the season.
“You look at Jack Leach, he plays 14 games and takes 50/60 wickets the last two years.
“He’s the man who’s in possession at the minute so any young spinner should be looking to play 10/12 games in the year and take the same number of wickets he takes.”
It’s clear to see why England are keeping a close eye on Parkinson. He has proven an ability to excel in both red and white-ball cricket and is the kind of bowler that, when he gets it right, can prove to be a match-winner.