Cricket

Lewis Gregory making great strides for Somerset

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When 22-year-old Lewis Gregory claimed a few years ago that he wanted to develop into a "batsman who bowls", a few eyebrows were raised by Somerset supporters.

Having initially broken into the one-day side in 2011 as a first-change bowler and number 9 or 10 batsman, it was difficult to see how the Plymouth-born Gregory could ever be considered anything other than a bowler, and after a few promising performances in the CB40 that year, he fell away from the first team.

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Injury 

Briefly but unsuccessfully used as an opening batsman during a 2012 injury crisis, Gregory did not feature much in first-class cricket until the back end of the 2013 season, when he announced himself onto the county scene with a flourish.

At the end of August, with only a handful of games to be played in Division 1 of the County Championship, Gregory came into the side having been featuring regularly for the 2nd XI, a frustrating place to be for a young cricketer.

Somerset's disastrous campaign looked like culminating in relegation, and a defeat against title contenders Middlesex would have sent them back into the drop zone; injuries soon before the game to Steve Kirby and Peter Trego left the Cidermen's attack looking bare.

The seam bowlers were Jamie Overton (19 years old at the time), Craig Meschede (21) and Gregory (also 21) as well as the seasoned campaigner Alfonso Thomas. A late batting rearguard from Piyush Chawla saw Somerset reach a commanding total of 449, but few had predicted what was to come.

Gregory's spell with the new ball, which he took rather than Thomas, saw him pick up figures of 7-1-14-2, with Middlesex being skittled out for just 106.

Batting line-up

However, a batting line-up containing Chris Rogers, Joe Denly and Sam Robson looked certain to improve in the follow-on - surely their experience would shine through?

Not many had counted on Gregory producing another magical spell though. With figures of 16-4-38-5, a maiden first-class five-for, the seamer inspired an innings and 179 run victory, which is still remembered fondly by the Taunton faithful.

This year, the 22-year-old has come on leaps and bounds. 

The 9th highest Division 1 wicket-taker, with 39, Gregory has found a consistent line and length easier to achieve, and despite the odd wayward spell in t20 cricket, his first-class economy rate of 3.29 shows that he is capable of bowling tight spells as well as taking wickets.

But despite his bowling success, Gregory continued to emphasize his batting ambitions.

After the Championship win against Lancashire, Gregory told the Western Gazette: “I still want to be a batter who bowls – that’s the plan. There’s still plenty of scope for improvement and I’m not yet the cricketer I see myself wanting to be. There’s a lot of room for improvement and hopefully that will come over the next few years."

“I’m still doing work on my batting, as everyone does – you have to. It’s about getting that balance between bat and ball, which I’m sure will come with a lot more experience."

“My aim is to bat in the middle order. Obviously we’ve got a lot of seriously talented and gifted lads with serious career records there at the moment, so it’s going to be hard to get where I want to. But that’s the plan and hopefully that will happen. I still feel like I’m only half the player I can be.”

Average

His batting average of 29 in the County Championship this summer would not suggest that he has achieved success in the way he had hoped, but on Sunday in the Royal London One-Day Cup opener against Durham at Taunton, a real revelation was seen by all.

Having averaged a shade over 11 in his brief List A career before his innings, Gregory came to the crease with Somerset in real trouble; 106 for 5 was the score in their chase of 312 after Paul Collingwood - another batsman who bowls, incidentally - had hit a magnificent unbeaten hundred. 

James Hildreth, a very aesthetically pleasing batsman, was well set but it was clear that one of the bowlers - Gregory, Craig Overton and Thomas were the three hopes - would have to produce an excellent contribution.

His fluency in his batting was incredible for someone with just two scores of 50 or above in professional cricket, as he struck a majestic 105 not out off only 71 deliveries in his match-winning partnership of 209 off 145 with Hildreth to see them home with 20 deliveries to spare.

It is clear that Gregory can bowl, and more contributions like this one with the bat will certainly stand him in good stead. A first-class hundred is surely just around the corner, and he may well press on towards England Lions recognition within a few years.

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Topics:
Cricket
T20
England cricket

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