It will be more than the year that is new for England when they take on Sri Lanka in the first Test on Thursday, with every indication Dan Lawrence will be handed the most long-awaited of 23-year-old debuts at No 5, coming as it does approaching six years since he became the third-youngest centurion in Championship history with his 161 for Essex against Surrey in his second senior match.
Lawrence has been given his chance by Chris Silverwood, England’s head coach, who was in charge of Essex’s second XI when the right-hander was coming through. “He has seen me develop as a player and as a person as well,” Lawrence says. “I feel like I can have really nice, open and honest conversations with Silvers and having a coach that understands how I tick and how I like to train really does help.”
Having scored an unbeaten 46 in England’s warm-up match Lawrence comes into the game full of confidence, not that he has had a significant issue on that front, and a tweak, to deal with an exaggerated trigger movement, has further improved his faith in his own game. “I’ve simplified things down a little bit now. I feel really confident in my new technique. I really do believe I can be successful, it’s just a matter of getting out there and doing it,” he says.
“Hopefully if I do get the nod on Thursday I stay true to myself, go out there and really express myself and not sit in a hole or let the situation get too much for me. The confidence in my own game is quite a big strength of mine.”
The son of a cricket obsessive, groundsman and occasional wicketkeeper at Chingford cricket club – a background that did not stop his brother turning against the game and developing a strong preference for wrestling – Lawrence has developed an unusual wristy action, which gives him greater scoring opportunities on the leg side. “You could call it unique, but it’s not to me,” he says. “It’s trying to stick to my guns and what I’ve done that’s made me successful. If I do play, then God knows how I will feel on Thursday, but at the moment I’m feeling pretty calm about it and full of excitement.”
A year ago Lawrence was about to set off for Australia with England Lions, a tour that firmly established him as one of his country’s rising talents. He averaged 98.60 in six matches, including 125 when the junior England side beat an Australia A team for the first time, and his off-spin made him the team’s joint-highest wicket-taker with 11. It is fair to say the remainder of 2020 did not go as he imagined. “I started the year really well in Australia and was on a massive high, then Covid hit, we couldn’t play cricket for three months and I had to get back down to earth,” he says.
He was named as a reserve for the Test series against Pakistan in August only to pull out of the England bubble after the death of his mother following a long illness. He ended 2020 in Australia, where he made four appearances for Brisbane Heat in the BBL. “Mum had been ill for a couple of years so as sad as it was, I had mentally prepared myself for the worst happening,” he says.
“That made things quite tough for a couple of months, then it was lovely to go back and play some cricket for Essex around my really good mates, who I needed at that time. They were all fantastic.
“Then I went to Australia for five weeks. I had the challenge of quarantining for two weeks, which is something I wouldn’t want to do again. I played a few games over there and now I’m here. It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster, but if I play on Thursday it’ll be a brilliant start to what will hopefully be a better year.”
Lawrence confident he can rise to the occasion for England in Sri Lanka The British Journal Editors and Wire Services/ The Guardian.