atching the Lions take on the tourists at Canterbury, England coach Brendon McCullum was treated to impressive performances from the returning Ollie Robinson and Craig Overton, who is also in the squad for next week’s first Test against South Africa.
South Africa, having opted to bat first, reached stumps 282 for six, with Robinson picking up two wickets and Overton four.
Following an excellent breakthrough in 2021, Robinson has had a difficult year, and has not represented England since the Hobart Test in January that completed a 4-0 Ashes defeat. He is, however, in the squad for next week’s Test against South Africa at Lord’s.
Back injuries have been Robinson’s main problem in 2022, but he has been publicly criticised by England bowling coach Jon Lewis (with whom he worked at Sussex) for his conditioning and professionalism, and has also spent time out with both dental issues and Covid-19. All of this has limited him to just three first-class matches this year.
This match is not first-class, because South Africa wanted to give more of their players meaningful red-ball warm-up action. The Lions took the opportunity to play 12 themselves, with seven bowlers used on the opening day.
Robinson put in an encouraging display, with figures of two for 56 from his 19 overs. His spells were five, six, three and five overs in length, and he bowled with decent zip throughout the day, with his fourth spell perhaps his best. He looks noticeably trimmer than he did in the spring, but the big test will come later in this game when he has to back up a solid performance.
Robinson picked up the wicket of Sarel Erwee, well taken by Ben Duckett at second slip, after lunch, then returned with the new ball late in the day to pick up his second wicket. That saw Rassie van der Dussen comprehensively bowled to end a stand of 143 with Khaya Zondo.
Overton showed excellent rhythm in all five of his spells. He broke an opening partnership of 85 between Erwee and Dean Elgar as lunch approached, with Elgar edging low to keeper Sam Billings, who took a fine catch. In his next over, Overton trapped Petersen lbw.
After Robinson dismissed Erwee, Overton took the wickets of Aiden Markram and Ryan Rickelton in successive overs, both to excellent catches from Billings and slip Will Jacks, to leave South Africa 129 for five.
From there, South Africa may reflect they got more from the day. On the eve of the match, their captain Elgar name-checked Van der Dussen and Zondo as two men competing for spots in a middle order missing Temba Bavuma.
The pair batted 42 overs together to put the skids on what had been a promising day for the Lions. Against Robinson, Overton and Cook they were watchful, before boundaries flowed against the change bowlers, spinners Liam Patterson-White and Will Jacks (who both were hampered by a short boundary and fast outfield), and Derbyshire seamer Sam Conners.
Conners, 23, was expensive, with his 13 overs costing 57, but with a strong action and lively pace, it is obvious why England’s have decided to take a close look at a player with a modest first-class record.