Beard’s dream debut shakes Sri Lankans

Aaron BeardNot many, least of all the tourists, knew much of Aaron Beard when he ran in for the first ball of Sri Lanka’s trip to England, but he certainly knew how to draw attention to himself. With wickets in each of his first two overs, the 18-year-old Chelmsford-born schoolboy began his first-class career in dreamy fashion as he picked apart Sri Lanka’s top order.

Beard, who has been with Essex since he was nine, ended with 4-62 as they were bowled out for 254. With the fourth ball of the match, after Angelo Mathews had opted to bat upon winning a not-terribly-fiercely-contested toss, Beard got one to nip away and take Kaushal Silva’s edge. Then, with the third ball of his next over, Beard had the other opener, Dinuth Karunaratne trapped in front by a full delivery.

There is mitigation for not knowing much about Beard. Only the most eagle-eyed viewers will remember he was a substitute fielder for England during a 2013 Ashes warm-up here, aged just 15. That is a responsibility given to few, whatever the occasion.

All Essex’s quietly-held hopes for him began to distil on a debut he will never forget. He does not turn 19 until October and is working under Graham Napier, a star pupil as Napier takes his Level 3 coaching qualification; Napier believes his charge has a wrist position of unusual quality.

Worryingly, Beard has already had two major back operations, but here all the moving parts looked in fine working order again; he is not tall, but is relatively broad shouldered, and a repeatable, attractive action arrives at the end of a smooth run. He found some movement, both off the seam and in the air, while the yorker he castled Milinda Siriwardana with suggested he could enjoy success with a white ball too. Graham Ford, Sri Lanka’s coach, was suitably impressed.

“It was an amazing day,” said Beard. “I was very nervous running in first up, but once you’ve bowled a couple of decent balls you settle and I was lucky to get my wicket in the first over. That eased the pressure completely. I wouldn’t have wanted to make my debut anywhere else than Chelmsford, definitely not. I went to school about six minutes up the road and first played for Essex in the under-9s.

“I don’t actually remember the first wicket because my adrenalin was rushing so quickly and it was very surreal. I settled as I bowled more.”

Beard’s exciting intervention apart, this was probably not how Sri Lanka imagined their first day of their tour of England. Having been spooked by England’s recent snow, the Sri Lanka’s were surprised to find that the sun blazing throughout – ice cream and increasingly salmon-coloured skin were abundant.

There was even a chance for the attack Sanath Jayasuriya this week described as the “best attack in the world” to feel the sun on their backs. They toiled as Essex – who bat deep – reached stumps 81 for 2. (Courtesy Cricinfo)