|Venue: Lord’s Dates: 2-6 June|
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Speak to those who have shared a dressing room with Matty Potts and one of the first words to come up is “confident”.
That self-belief got him into trouble in the past – sometimes painfully so – but it now has the 23-year-old Durham pace bowler on the brink of an England debut, which could come in the first Test against New Zealand on Thursday.
The grandeur of Lord’s is a long way from how ‘Pottsy’ began, as one former team-mate explains.
“I’m a big bloke, 17 or 18st, but aged about 15 during a rain delay Matty said, ‘I am going to fight everyone in the changing room and I’m going to start with you, Ash,'” says Ash Thorpe, who played with Potts at his former club Washington in the north east.
“It was nothing more than him wanting to prove a point – the alpha male inside him.”
Thorpe adds: “He didn’t get beyond me. He was on the floor.
“But that is the kind of confidence he exudes as a player and a person.
“He is cheeky in a non-offensive way but has always had that drive, chip and confidence in his own ability and he always had that belief he was going to go somewhere in the game.”
Potts started out as a batter at Washington, opening as a schoolboy in men’s league cricket, but that did not last long.
“His old man is a giant – about 6ft 9ins – so we knew he would end up a decent bowler,” Thorpe says. “There was one game his bowling just clicked.”
Within three years, aged 18, he made his Durham debut.
“He stuck his chest out as he does,” says Durham bowling coach Neil Killeen. “You’d have thought he’d been in the dressing room for 15 years.
“He was straight into conversations with senior players, telling everyone how they should be bowling, batting or fielding.
“We had to say, ‘Matthew just find your place, mate’.
“He is not quietly confident, he is very confident, but it is not an ‘arrogant confident’. It is just the way he holds himself.”
Potts said in a recent interview he was a “naughty kid” at school. He went to Sixth Form at St Robert of Newminster in Tyne and Wear, the same school attended by England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.
“There are some links between the two of them in their personality types,” says Stephen Langstaff, St Robert’s head of PE.
“That probably gives them a bit of edge in the sporting field.
“Matty represented the school at football too and we used his athletic ability in defence. I would use the phrase ‘robust’.”
An outstanding start to the County Championship season has catapulted Potts into the England reckoning.
He is the leading red-ball wicket-taker in the country with 35 wickets at an average of 18.57 in Division Two and can now stick out that chest out with the numbers to back up the belief.
Rather than fighting team-mates he now spends his time walking his dogs or admiring cars – or as Thorpe puts it: “He has calmed down a lot.”
After his first England call-up last week, he received a text from James Anderson, England’s most successful bowler, welcoming him to the squad.
When Rob Key, England’s new managing director of men’s cricket, spoke about the squad he talked up Potts as “point of difference”.
While he does not have express pace, those who have seen him develop say Potts has stepped up a level this season and work in the gym has made him capable of bowling in excess of 85mph.
Potts has three six-wicket hauls and one seven-for this season, gained through finding bounce from flat pitches rather than nibbling the ball around with swing or seam.
“He will run in and hit the pitch hard,” Killeen says.
“He will certainly get into the battle and make it as uncomfortable as possible.
“That is not him chirping the batsman. That is him delivering the ball in uncomfortable positions. He has done that relentlessly throughout the summer.”
If Potts does get the nod – it looks a straight pick between him and fellow seamer Craig Overton – he will be the latest off the Durham bowling production line that has provided England with Steve Harmison, Graham Onions, Ben Stokes and Mark Wood.
“He is right up there with those names,” says Killeen.
“His bowling spells and matches this year are some of the best displays I have seen at Durham and this is my 30th year as a player and a coach.
That confident kid is ready to step out on the biggest stage.
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