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Eng vs NZ 2022 – 3rd test

Zaheer Khan, Hasan Ali – and now, Matthew Potts. It’s not a trio you would naturally throw together, although they would make a pretty orderly bowling attack. Beyond that, there’s probably not much in common given the age differences as well as the times and environments they grew up in. The Beastie Boys, they are not.

But on Saturday at Headingley, a thread that existed between Zaheer and Hasan was sewn to Potts. Because they are now the only three bowlers to have dismissed Kane Williamson three times in a Test series. Zaheer was in his 15th year in the format, while Hasan did it a year after debuting in 2017. It took Potts a few weeks.

It’s not a measure to rank them, by any means. Especially since when Zaheer made his India debut in 2000, Williamson was a 10-year-old, gently guiding balls behind the car and into the garage door. But it’s a good summary of how quickly Potts has felt at home at this level, having stamped the New Zealand captain’s card in all but one of the four innings he has played. If Covid hadn’t intervened at Trent Bridge to rule out two more fixtures, Potts might have earned enough points to qualify for a free Kane Williamson.

The setup and punchline of this final battle was Potts in a nutshell. Four deliveries came from an almost identical exit point to the crease, before he swerved away while serving a ball that behaved like the others. Williamson, now conditioned to a ball entering him, approached this one in exactly the same way, offering a straight bat, but failed to register that it was a little wider, so probably a to cut. He knew he was done as soon as contact was made and arched back to stare despairingly at the sky as Jonny Bairstow took the hold with the gloves and Potts walked away.

Having just lost Devon Conway, and with Williamson settled at 48 after nearly three hours in the crease, it was an incision that swung the afternoon in the direction of England, possibly even the game. New Zealand still lead by 137, with five wickets still to be secured.

As things stand, Potts is England’s leading wicket-taker for the series with 13 at an impressive average of 21.53. And although he started strong at Lord’s with four for 13, followed by three for 55 in the second set, his work so far at Headingley might be his best showing yet.

He was unlucky to exit the first innings with just one wicket for 34 of his 26 overs, especially as he had twice outshot eventual New Zealand centurion Daryl Mitchell. One in eight lbw was not seen again after being ruled not knocked out and then an 80 advantage was taken away from the hands of Joe Root on the first slip when wicketkeeper Ben Foakes jumped in to snatch it.

But you knew, deep down, that Potts’ awards weren’t going to be too far away. As he mentioned on Sky Sports during the stumps on Saturday, he’s consistent with his method: “I don’t think there’s any big secret. Just a little wobble, maybe the occasional swing. Try just hit it a good length and hopefully something will happen.” As he did against Williamson, and earlier when he launched the hunt for England for ten second-inning wickets with a delivery that left Will Young and persuaded Ollie Pope on the third slip.

As for the times when that doesn’t quite happen? “It’s not a drama,” he shrugs, like a guy who knows very well that none of this is life or death. Yet even in times when the pitch flattens, he still runs, still hammering that length and doing it with enough precision for England to run without a thin leg, giving them extra field to use in a more position. threatening.

A quick arm, clumsy action and what those who use the term call “quick pinching” – Potts’ ability to lose little momentum after ball throws – misjudge, even before his skills kick in. game. These skills were honed over the winter and eventually led to his international calling, including acquiring a swing ball. Add it all together, even at an average pace of 81 miles per hour (both in this test and in the series as a whole), CricViz calculates that it causes false hits 17% of the time – essentially more than a time.

That he is now doing all of this as James Anderson’s replacement has something to do with it either. The replacement charge for 651 dismissals does not register, because his mandate has not changed. When so many people tried to emulate the big man, Potts was his own man, doing things his own way.

There’s also something to be said for Potts’ personality, as it’s not as evident on the pitch as it is in others. While Ben Stokes, Stuart Broad and Jonny Bairstow took turns between the balls to lead the Western Terrace as if they were warming up the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury, Potts managed to do so when the ball was live.

You could probably give some of the credit for Henry Nicholls’ wicket (caught and played by Jack Leach) to Potts, given that he was responsible for the decibel levels that made Headingley feel a bit smaller and a little more closed for New Zealand hitters. . And that said all you needed to know about his attitude towards the game and the grind, that he was rushing back to his mark even as darkness approached, to try and win one or two more deliveries before the end of the day.

Alas, his scampering before the rains arrived to end day three proved futile, and he will return Sunday morning with one ball remaining in his 10th over.

There’s a selflessness to his transplant: Potts is the kind of person who walks through a brick wall for his teammates and then cleans up the debris. That’s why, even before throwing a ball into an England shirt, Stokes defended him not just as an ‘athlete’, but as ‘everything I expect from this team going forward’. .

Typically, he didn’t have it when asked about the thrill of having a player like Williamson, a generational great, in his back pocket. “I wouldn’t say it’s sitting in my pocket,” he replied, as much a correction as a statement of the kind of humility needed to succeed in this arena.

“To be honest, it could be anyone. Anyone in this line-up, I’m trying to get them out. And if I’m not, I shouldn’t really be in the team.”

Well, it is. And it should be, for quite a while yet.

Vithushan Ehantharajah is a sports reporter for ESPNcricinfo