Spinner Hartley has high hopes of impressing on Lions training camp

Tom Hartley was taken by surprise by his late England selection call two months ago… now the 6ft 4in spinner has high hopes of impressing on Lions training camp in Abu Dhabi

  • Tom Hartley made his England debut in the one-day win over Ireland
  • He was called-up after Luke Wood was ruled out on morning of the match
  • The Lancashire spinner is now on the radar for the five-Test tour of India

Tom Hartley will be much better prepared the next time he takes the field for England following a last-minute international debut two months ago.

Hartley, Lancashire’s left-armer spinner, has been identified as someone to be involved in both a post-World Cup reset and potentially a Test squad in India in the new year after making his bow at Trent Bridge when Luke Wood was struck down by tonsillitis on the morning of a one-day win over Ireland.

The late selection call from limited-overs coach Matthew Mott caught the 24-year-old off guard and meant his family – including father Bill, a former Commonwealth Games silver medallist – were not present when Andrew Flintoff broke his public silence post-Top Gear crash with some words of encouragement and the handing over of England’s 272nd one-day cap.

‘Motty called me at 8.30am. I was walking to breakfast and his number came up,’ Hartley recalls.

‘I had to take a double glance because I thought it was a bit weird. He was like, “you’re playing today.” I was like: “S***!”

Lancashire spinner Tom Hartley is on England’s radar for the five-Test tour of India

‘My family had been quizzing me as to whether they should come down, but I told them not to bother as I wasn’t going to play, so I texted them that morning with an “oops.”

‘My girlfriend Lauren was still asleep by the time I handed my phone in, so she had to drive down and get her own ticket. The rest of the family got to watch it on TV. Obviously, it would’ve been nice for them to be around the huddle when Fred made his speech but you know….’

As Mail Sport revealed in September, the 6ft 4ins Hartley is on England’s radar for the five-Test tour of India despite a modest 2023 season with Lancashire in which he claimed just 18 County Championship wickets in nine appearances at 45.22 runs each. 

The selectors have looked past the raw statistics accumulated in home conditions, though, to the attributes that might make bowlers like him and Somerset rookie Shoaib Bashir successful on the subcontinent – a high release point, quicker than average pace for a spinner and consistent targeting of the stumps.

And so, they will work under Graeme Swann – one of two England Lions mentors alongside Flintoff for a training camp in Abu Dhabi from Thursday – on how to exploit Asian pitches with a tendency to deteriorate in some cases, and completely crumble in others.

‘Hopefully, they will be similar to Indian wickets, and it will allow us to practice the kind of stuff guys like Axar Patel and Ravindra Jadeja have been doing for years,’ he says. ‘Firing it in, firing it in, ball after ball.

‘The Indian lads obviously play spin really well, but watching the Australians recently, Todd Murphy made his debut there and so it is possible to be successful. It looks like the spinners are always on top there, so if you can go in with that confidence against their players, then hopefully you shouldn’t go too far wrong.’

England believe Hartley has the height, pace and accuracy to be successful on subcontinent 

Before then, he will attempt to add to his family’s tapestry of sporting success during December’s three-match ODI series against West Indies.

In an echo of the athletics career of his dad – who was part of the England 4 x 400m relay team that came second in the 1974 Commonwealth event, but has since misplaced the medal – Hartley is something of a late bloomer. Fitting, given that he was born into a family florist business on Merseyside.

‘I used to be quite chubby. I didn’t hit puberty until late, so I was never the sports star as a kid,’ Hartley, who burst through at Lancashire at academy rather than age group age, explains.

As he discovered with his England debut, however, sometimes better late than never.

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