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Eng in Pak 2022 – Will Jacks follows Moeen Ali’s lead in Test allrounder bid

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Eng in Pak 2022 – Will Jacks follows Moeen Ali’s lead in Test allrounder bid

Will Jacks is one of six England players who will fly home from Pakistan next week while the rest of the touring squad travel to Australia for the T20 World Cup, but he hopes that he will have the chance to return before long.

Jacks had only taken four first-class wickets this time last year and his first-class bowling average is 53.28 but he made a significant contribution to Surrey’s title-winning County Championship season with bat and ball and is in the frame for a place in the Test squad as a back-up allrounder for England’s three-match tour to Pakistan in December.

Gareth Batty, Surrey’s interim head coach, has drawn a comparison with Moeen Ali and Jacks revealed that the pair spent some time working on his bowling together during the Karachi leg of England’s T20I series. With Moeen distancing himself from a Test call-up earlier in the tour despite having reversed his retirement from the format earlier this year, Jacks will come into contention.

“I’m working as hard as I can on my bowling,” Jacks said, speaking at the Pearl Continental hotel in Lahore after flying from Karachi on Monday. “I’ve been chatting to Mo since I’ve been here and we’ve been talking about our similarities as bowlers, me compared to him when he was younger.

“He sees a lot of similarities in our actions – the way our arms move, all technical stuff – and it’s about how I can almost… not replicate what he’s done, because everyone is different, but take things from how he’s gone about changing his action [and] become tighter, so that I can bowl more consistently.

“I know there’s something there for me and I know if I can improve then going forward, I can make myself into that allrounder and push for spots. I know how important that is and I’m giving everything to try to make myself that.”

Jacks has developed his bowling significantly in recent years, to the extent that Batty told him in pre-season that he was likely to start as Surrey’s main spinner. His selection was controversial at the time, squeezing Amar Virdi and Dan Moriarty – widely considered to be two of England’s most promising young spinners – out of the side, but has been vindicated by their title win.

Jacks’ contribution with the ball was relatively modest, with 17 wickets at 47.00, but he regularly performed a holding role and allowed seamers to rotate. He also finished the season with 648 runs at 54.00 from the middle order, and earned a Lions call-up for the four-day match against South Africa in August.

“There were chats with the coaches there,” he said of his experience with the Lions. “They spoke about how they liked the way I put shape on the ball and spin the ball, so they’re obviously telling me to keep working and keep pushing which I am doing.

“The first five or six [Championship] games before the T20s, I made loads of mistakes and bowled a lot of terrible balls, but it’s something that I’ve really had to grow. It’s forced me to learn quickly, which has definitely helped me, and when we came back I feel like I bowled much more consistently and more maturely.

“I was coming in and playing instead of two guys who have done really well. They’ve got records over a few years, so I did kind of feel that pressure. At the beginning, I put too much pressure on myself: I was expecting to bowl like a real high-quality county spinner when at that stage I wasn’t that.”

Jacks is one of three Surrey players in Pakistan for the T20I series and admitted it was “strange” to miss out on their title celebrations after playing an important role in their title win. “Me, Sam [Curran] and Toppers [Reece Topley] were on the WhatsApp group, seeing the photos and videos sent through and were disappointed to be missing out on the fun,” he said.

“But you wouldn’t change playing for England for anything. It’s a mixed feeling: I’m over the moon and delighted to be here – it’s something I’ve worked my whole life for. But seeing those celebrations… I’m not going to lie, I was gutted to miss out. When I go back in a week’s time, I’ll celebrate with them.”

Jacks has not yet been required with the ball in this series and has experienced contrasting emotions with the bat, hitting 40 off 22 on debut before being bowled by Mohammad Hasnain for a third-ball duck in Pakistan’s last-gasp win on Sunday night.

“I’ve loved every second,” he said. “All the games have been such high intensity, and the crowds have been amazing. The message to me coming in has been to play my natural way and play how I’ve done for Surrey: that’s what’s got me into this team so I should play how I have been to stay there and perform in international cricket.”

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98

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