Today, we welcome new contributor and Surrey regular Devon Nostrand to TFT. He gives us the inside track on Will Jacks, whose inclusion in England’s Test squad for Pakistan surprised a few…
The upcoming tour to Pakistan has many an England fan brimming with excitement. Fresh off the most successful Test summer in almost 20 years, as well as Morgan’s Men (albeit with Eoin himself commentating on the game rather than playing in it) finally securing the World T20, belief is high amongst English cricket fans. The squad announced over a month ago had a few surprises, namely Liam Livingstone’s inclusion after an interesting run of form in the county championship. But my attention was firmly on the maiden inclusion for England’s next all format superstar, Will Jacks.
I’ll be the first to say I saw this coming. Having spent most of my summer at The Oval, I saw before my eyes the transformation of Jacks from explosive white ball hitter to the kind of dynamic batting all-rounder that County Championship winning sides are built on. I told anyone who would listen that he would be on the plane to Pakistan, and now it his time to show the world what he can do.
Jacks’s red ball rise has been somewhat of a surprise to some, who pigeonholed him exclusively as Surreys white ball future following eyewatering innings such as his hundred off just 25 balls against Lancashire in a 2019 warm up game. However, in an era of T20 dominance where players are ‘guns for hire’, it has been refreshing to see a player that could have turned solely to white ball cricket, share the enthusiasm for the red ball game that so many of us fans do.
No, Jacks was different. He went into 2022 determined to secure his spot in that Surrey XI and he did just that. Assured performance after assured performance saw him mature into a player that could make big, match winning contributions. The culmination of this was the most destructive Championship hundred I’ve ever seen, against red ball power Essex no less…
Jacks started by sucking up the pressure, showing the formidable nature of his technique and a newfound determination to occupy the crease when his team, slipping to 112/7, needed him most. He guided Surrey from that perilous position before seizing the day and destroying Critchley as well as cricket Twitter’s favourite son, Simon Harmer. The latter was launched for 5 sixes including three in a row, as Jacks moved from 100 to 150* in just 14 balls. The innings had it all. It was no one off, either. Jacks was ever so consistent last summer, racking up 297 runs between the start of May and the end of July without losing his wicket at The Oval in a red ball fixture. He had earned every fibre of the county cap he received the next day.
Aside from his batting, Jacks’s work with the ball was also significant. Though his numbers will not blow you away, on flat wickets he was an invaluable spin option that took the pressure off an otherwise all seam attack. He recorded his best ever figures with the ball this season, and he continues to go from strength to strength whether it’s opening the bowling in The Blast, or keeping it tight in the Championship. This is what England see in him: a complete batsman, averaging 54 last season, able to pounce on bowling attacks when the time is right, and a bowler who can contain on flat wickets.
Consequently, Jacks has the tools to take some of the pressure off England’s injury prone and depleted pace attack. What’s more, he is a marvellous slip and outfielder, skills even more significant on dead pitches where every chance must be taken in the quest for 20 wickets. Catches win matches, after all. These factors made him a must-have for the tour, and I sincerely hope he makes his debut.
England will want their seamers to do most of the damage, working in conjunction with Jack Leach. But with the prospect of 500 plays 500 on first innings, bowlers like Jacks who can chip in alongside Joe Root could be key. Furthermore, Jacks is the answer to the batting-with-the-tail skills gap present in the current England XI. Ben Foakes rightly has a firm hold on the keeping spot, but he lacks the ability to be explosive down the order when batting with the bowlers. That is where Jacks could be quintessential. He’s earned the right, put in the red ball yards, and deserves the chance to show the world what he can do on the largest stage.
Surrey are blessed with a number of rock and roll young cricketers. Ollie Pope and Sam Curran are the household names, and Will Jacks could be of that significance shortly.