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ENGLAND V SOUTH AFRICA TESTS

England's new No.3 moulded by Waugh

21 July 2017

Essex batsman Tom Westley will bat at No.3 for England against South Africa // Getty

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Tom Westley already has a century against Australia to his name but will soon find out if his prolific county record translates to Test runs

About the Writer:
 @StocksC_cricket

Chris Stocks is a freelance cricket writer based in London. He is a regular contributor to the Guardian, Daily Mail, Independent and London Evening Standard.

He lists Steve Waugh as his cricketing role model, comes from the same Essex production line as Alastair Cook and has already scored a century against Australia. Meet Tom Westley, England's newest Test batsman.

Westley was yesterday named in the squad for next week's third Test against South Africa following a fine season for Essex that has seen him score 478 runs at 53.11.

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England's selectors have already confirmed the 28-year-old will bat at No.3 at The Oval – meaning he is a direct replacement for the injured Gary Ballance.

The news brought Westley's father, Ade, to tears.

"I owe a lot to so many people, but my dad has been the most influential person in my career," said Westley.


"He was the first person I spoke to after the news came through. He's a builder, and he's not known for being very emotional. But he told me he was very proud, and said he might have to nip around the back of the scaffolding to shed a tear – in a monotone way, obviously."

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When the initial emotion of his call-up has passed, Westley will realise this is a golden opportunity for him to cement a place in the team ahead of the Ashes later this year.

It will not be an easy task for the right-hander given the quality of South Africa's bowlers. However, he will take confidence from the unbeaten 106 he scored in a tour match for the England Lions at Worcester late last month against a Proteas attack that included Kagiso Rabada, Chris Morris and Morne Morkel.

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"I appreciate everything in Test cricket is going to be another step up in intensity, but I can take confidence from having faced the majority of their bowlers a few weeks ago and scored some runs," said Westley. "But for me the key is going to be replicating what I've been doing with Essex."

Westley has made a habit of scoring big runs against touring teams to England, that century last month following three-figure scores against Sri Lanka last year and Australia before the 2015 Ashes.

Tom Westley scores ton against touring Australians

That knock in the northern summer of 2015 came in a tour match at Chelmsford, when Westley plundered 144 for Essex against an attack that included Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazelwood and Nathan Lyon.

Whether Westley will reacquaint himself with that trio again later this year will depend on how he fares firstly against South Africa and then in the three-match series against the West Indies that concludes the northern Test summer.

The signs are he will have every chance of featuring in the Ashes given a record that has seen him average 57 across his last 30 innings going back to the start of the 2016 County Championship season.

Westley sweeps in front of Peter Nevill during a 2015 tour match // Getty
Westley sweeps in front of Peter Nevill during a 2015 tour match // Getty

Westley's rise will come as no surprise to those who first spotted his talent at Essex more than a decade ago.

This is a club that developed Cook into a player who has become his country's all-time leading Test run-scorer and Westley's close bond with the former England captain will help him settle into the international environment.

Cook was one of the first people to call him after he was selected, with the opener's four-year-old daughter also wishing her dad's teammate well.

"Cooky called me this morning, just to say congratulations and told me if he could help in any way, he'd be on the end of a phone," Westley said. "He was in the car with his daughter Elsie actually, so she said congratulations to me as well.

"I've learned so much from Cooky over the years. One of the big things is his demeanour, not just as a batsman but also as a person. He's an unbelievable role model, and after seeing him close-up with Essex for so long I'm looking forward to seeing him with England. We've had quite a few good partnerships with Essex, so hopefully we can do the same for England."

Westley and Cook have a strong bond as Essex teammates // Getty
Westley and Cook have a strong bond as Essex teammates // Getty

Like Cook, Westley's early years were heavily influenced by former Essex and England captain Graham Gooch.

Interviewing Westley for The Cricketer magazine following that knock against Australia two years ago, he revealed: "I did a lot of work with him when I was 18, 19, 20 when he was Essex batting coach. He was very influential in terms of giving me a grounding in batting. To work with someone like that at a young age put me in good stead for the future."

Westley was first spotted as a youngster by another former England and Essex legend in Keith Fletcher.

"Someone else I speak to a lot is Keith Fletcher, who is like the godfather of Essex in a lot of our eyes," said Westley. "I had a message from him too after that century against Australia and tried calling him back but he's not too good with technology. But he's fantastic to talk to about batting."

Born in Cambridge, Westley is a graduate of Durham University and that is the same path to Test cricket taken by another former Test captain in Andrew Strauss, now England's director of cricket.

Like Westley, Strauss was a relative latecomer to the international arena, making his Test debut at the age of 27.

But it is a former Australia captain who Westley reveals was his biggest cricketing hero growing up.

From The Vault: Steve Waugh's perfect day

"I always admired Steve Waugh," he said. "Just his determination and the way he went about his business, he was a massive role model."

Westley is likely to need some of the same determination when he faces South Africa at The Oval next week.

But he at least has had a grounding that means he has every chance of success.

 

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