Gloucestershire batsman James Bracey ready for England bow after quietly pleading for a place in the first Test against New Zealand at Lord’s
- The 24-year-old Gloucestershire batsman in the frame for England’s bow
- He has spent parts of the past 10 months as a reserve in bio-safe bubbles
- Bracey has scored four half centuries in five County Championship innings
Not since the 1980s has England selected a frontline Gloucestershire batsman for Test cricket, but chances are statistics will be referenced to history this summer.
James Bracey has quietly made his case for a place in the opening game against New Zealand at Lord’s on June 2, should injuries – Ben Stokes be ruled out and Dom Sibley questionable – or dictate loss of form.
Bracey, who turns 24 next week, celebrated a fourth half-century in five County Championship innings against Hampshire on Saturday to bring his summer total to 334 runs at an average of 83.5: numbers suggesting he’s willing to Following in the footsteps of Bill Athey, whose last appearance was in 1988, came into the top three of England.
James Bracey has quietly made his case for a place in the first Test against New Zealand
He also feels mentally ready for it. One of the questions that players will be asked when picked from the ranks of the county is how they will cope with a new environment.
However, it is no stranger to Bracey, having spent parts of the past 10 months as a reserve in several bio-safe bubbles here and in Sri Lanka and India.
‘I’ve had conversations with people in my family and when they asked me how the trips went, I say that the most important thing I’ve learned from all this is that – if I’m lucky enough to be selected – I feel like I would be able to get up and do it, ”Bracey thought.
‘When you first walk into England’s locker room there are all kinds of thoughts about what it could be like and you have no idea what it takes to be there or whether you are good enough. But the experiences I’ve had made me realize I have the game. I am sure I can get a job done for sure.
‘I wouldn’t say I’m an established member of the set-up because I haven’t played, but not many guys get the fame around the group before playing that I’ve had.
The 24-year-old scored four half centuries in five County Championship innings
‘What I’ve learned is that being the best takes a lot of work. In the England squad, those who are counted among the best in the world – Ben Stokes, Joe Root and Jos Buttler – are exceptionally committed to their profession. They hit a lot of balls, keep themselves very fit and can handle the pressure well. ‘
The former Loughborough University player led the way in the first Gloucestershire team to win their first two championship games since 1931, upsetting Surrey, three-year champion and eternal second-place Somerset, before taking on Hampshire.
“You hear what people are saying about Craig Overton, Kyle Abbott and Mohammad Abbas, brilliant bowlers, and you see people beaten or licked at the highlights of the championship,” added Bracey.
‘They are internationally experienced players and I appreciated the challenge. You only get better and higher in the game if you can score against these guys. ‘
Bracey has done this in a methodical way that is atypical for the Twenty20 era, but is completely in line with the example English coach Chris Silverwood prefers for his testing team. His first 65 innings in the Ageas Bowl took over three and a half hours.
“It’s a natural course for a lot of people to play aggressively, but I’ve always wanted to put together good technique and appreciate a solid defense,” said Bracey.
Gloucestershire have won their first two championship matches for the first time since 1931
“ When I first got into top-notch cricket I might have missed a few shots, but it worked for me to hit time, score my runs by collecting and crushing some people. ”
The relentless dedication to occupation is reminiscent of Kumar Sangakkara, a natural role model for the left-handed as a wicket-keeper striking the top of the order. The dual responsibilities haven’t caused a problem with fatigue so far this season, although his feet get freezing daily due to a toe that’s badly bruised when he steps on the bed during a midnight toilet visit.
However, it is for his primary percussion that he wants to be judged – and it has him considered for selection this summer.