|Place: of the Lord At your place: June 2-6|
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Talk to those who have shared a locker room with Matty Potts and one of the first words that comes out is “confident”.
That self-esteem has gotten him into trouble in the past – sometimes painfully so – but now he has the 23-year-old Durham rhythm pitcher on the verge of his England debut, who could make it into the first test against New Zealand on Thursday.
Lord’s greatness is a long way from the beginning of “Pottsy,” as a former teammate explains.
“I’m a big guy, 17 or 18 stone, but about 15 years old during a rain delay Matty said, ‘I’ll bump into everyone in the locker room and start with you, Ash,'” says Ash Thorpe, who played with Potts in the his former Washington club in the Northeast.
“It was none other than him who wanted to prove one point: the alpha male inside him.”
Thorpe adds, “He didn’t get past me. He was on the floor.
But that’s the kind of confidence he exudes as a player and as a person.
“He’s cheeky in a non-offensive way, but he always had that drive, chips and confidence in his own abilities and always believed he was going to go somewhere in the game.”
Potts started out as a batsman in Washington, starting as a schoolboy in men’s league cricket, but he didn’t last long.
“His old man is a giant – about 6 feet 9 inches – so we knew he was going to be a decent player,” says Thorpe. “There was a game his bowling just clicked.”
Within three years, at the age of 18, he made his Durham debut.
“He pulled his chest out the way he does,” says Durham bowling coach Neil Killeen. “You would have thought he had been in the locker room for 15 years.
“He was directly involved in conversations with senior players, telling everyone how they should go bowling, bat or field.
“We had to say, ‘Matthew find your place, man.’
“He’s not quietly sure of himself. He’s very sure of himself, but he’s not a ‘confident arrogant’. It’s just the way he holds himself.”
Potts said in a recent interview he was a “bad kid” in school. He attended 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 in their personality types,” says Stephen Langstaff, St Robert’s chief of PE.
“This probably gives them a bit of an advantage on the sports field.
“Matty also represented the school in football and we used his athletic skills in defense. I would use the phrase ‘robust’.”
An exceptional start to the County Championship season catapulted Potts into an England showdown.
He is the leading red ball wicket player in the country with 35 wickets at an average of 18.57 in Division Two and can now stick that chest out with numbers to back up the belief.
Instead of fighting teammates, he now spends his time walking his dogs or admiring the cars – or as Thorpe puts it: “He’s calmed down a lot.”
After his first call-up to England last week, he received a message from James Anderson, England’s most successful bowler, welcoming him into the squad.
When Rob Key, England’s new chief executive of men’s cricket, talked about the team, he spoke of Potts as a “point of difference”.
While he doesn’t have a fast pace, those who have seen him grow say Potts has leveled up this season and gym work has made him capable of bowling at over 85mph.
Potts has three six-wicket and one seven-wicket hauls for this season, earned by finding rebound from flat fields rather than nibbling the ball with swings or joints.
“He’ll run in and hit the pitch hard,” says Killeen.
“He will certainly enter the battle and make it as uncomfortable as possible.
“That’s not him chirping the batter. That’s him delivering the ball in awkward positions. He’s been doing it relentlessly all summer.”
If Potts gets approval – it seems like a direct choice between him and colleague Craig Overton – he will be the last of the Durham bowling production line that supplied England with Steve Harmison, Graham Onions, Ben Stokes and Mark Wood.
“It’s right up there with those names,” Killeen says.
“His spells and bowling games this year are some of the best performances I’ve seen in Durham and this is my 30th year as a player and manager.”
That self-confident boy is ready to take the biggest stage.