Mum will be looking down with pride: England's new leggie Matt Parkinson is hoping to make his family smile after a tragic summer

Daily Mail

Daily Mail

Author 2019-10-17 01:18:00

Matt Parkinson knows exactly what his state of mind will be like if and when he is handed his international debut versus New Zealand next month. His thoughts will be consumed by his late mother Maria.

Lancashire leg-spinner Parkinson lost his mum suddenly last season just hours after he marked his first County Championship appearance of 2019 with 10 wickets in an innings victory over Sussex at Old Trafford.

A little over two months later, during a drawn match with Leicestershire in which he and brother Callum became the first twins to dismiss each other in the same fixture in first-class history, he found he was in the Test and Twenty20 squads for the first of England's winter tours.

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Lancashire leg-spinner Matt Parkinson is on the verge of making his England debut 

'I was emotional on the coach journey back,' he tells Sportsmail. 'Keaton Jennings was looking after me, I had a few glasses of wine and got a bit blubbery. I am sure she will be looking down with immense pride and be with me in New Zealand.

'She was the No 1 taxi driver, came watching all the time, more so than dad who was a lot busier. Growing up, she was always there.'

While Maria's death on July 16 aged just 50 placed life into perspective for the family, it proved a driving force in what would turn out to be a highly successful spell for Parkinson.

'Cricket obviously wasn't everything then,' said the 22-year-old from Bolton. 'But three days later, we were playing Leicestershire and that meant Callum and I were able to be together.

'The match was rained off but we were around a lot of people we'd known for a long time. There were something like 60 representatives from both clubs at the funeral and myself, Callum and the Lancashire lads used it as a motivation to perform well from that point onwards.

'Personally, I managed to ride a wave during the Twenty20 matches and I am looking to take that form into the winter.'

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Parkinson and twin Callum (far right) with mum Maria, who died in July

Most players discover England selections via a phone call from national selector Ed Smith, although circumstances dictated that Parkinson got the news with Callum, his elder brother by a quarter of an hour, standing yards away at the non-striker's end at Grace Road.

'Saqib Mahmood shouted from the balcony and all the coaches stood up and clapped,' he recalls.

Steven Croft, at short leg, confirmed it via a notification on his smart watch. Soon afterwards, Parkinson trapped his sibling lbw. The compliment was returned the following day. Such is their rapport, however, that there were no histrionics.

'It's a different relationship being a twin,' he says.

'You are competitive on the field but you want each other to do really well. We hate playing against each other. I would rather have got everyone else out and him be unbeaten on 40.

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Matt during the Royal London One Day Cup match between Lancashire and Northamptonshire

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'We are just supportive. We are quite different. He's a left-arm spinner and more of a batter so we have never had that competitiveness between us. We never want to out-do each other.

'When I got him out, I walked to short leg and tried not to laugh. He didn't celebrate at all, either, when he got me out. He turned around and bowed his head.'

England and leg-spin are not natural bedfellows. Adil Rashid, selected solely for the five-game Twenty20 series against the Black Caps, is one of only five English leggies to have taken 60 or more Test wickets, and the only one in the era of covered pitches.

So how did Parkinson fall for the art? The romantic answer would be that he was beguiled by a great Australian in his pomp. The truth is closer to home and once again family-orientated. His father Dave was a leg-spinner in Lancashire league cricket.

'People presume it was because of Shane Warne in 2005 and it might have been because I caught a day of the Ashes that year - it was around that time - but I cannot tell you for definite. I bowled leg spin because I was good at it and my dad made sure I stuck with it when other people were saying, 'You don't want to bowl that, it's too hard'. Anyhow, I am Team MacGill.'

The last reference is one to his working relationship with Stuart MacGill, Warne's understudy for Australia for a decade, a bowler with more than 200 Test scalps and Parkinson's coach in 2017-18 - the final year of the ECB's now defunct spin-bowling programme. Such is the bond they formed over that winter in Sydney that Parkinson has kept in touch for both technical advice and general mentoring.

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Parkinson in action during Lancashire v Middlesex in the Specsavers County Championship

Although Parkinson is the most prolific spinner in the past two Vitality Blast campaigns, limited chances in a County Championship increasingly played in the seamer-friendly margins of April and September make his double selection a surprise.

Having recovered from a second stress fracture of the back, an injury which cost him a gig with Melbourne Stars at the Big Bash last winter, he managed 21 scalps in four appearances of unbeaten Lancashire's title-winning Division Two season. Like most English spinners, he has been left wanting more first-class exposure. 'Growing up it was always red ball for me,' he says.

'I enjoyed T20 but when I first started playing at 19 I was not best suited to white-ball cricket because I bowled really slowly. Now, it's whatever I am doing well in at the time.

'If I am doing well in T20, I think, "Bloody hell, this is a good game". I have found red-ball cricket a bit tough to love at times because of the nature of being a non-batting No 11. You wear the bib a lot and when you get the chance you've got to take it - when it's your time, on day four, everyone is looking for you to win a game.

'Yet I still have a burning ambition to play Test cricket for England, probably more so than white-ball cricket.'

The presentation of his full international cap could come as soon as November 1, the opening match of a series that begins preparations for the Twenty20 World Cup this time next year.

Upon receipt, expect a glance to the heavens.

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