Kerrigan endures 'excruciating' Ashes debut as yips take hold
Lancashire spinner had a nightmare on day one of the final Test against Australia
ENGLAND'S decision to blood two new bowlers in the fifth and final Ashes Test at the Oval backfired spectacularly as Australia romped to 307-4 on day one as spinner Simon Kerrigan and, to a lesser extent, seamer Chris Woakes endured torrid debuts.
Much-maligned batsman Shane Watson, without a Test century since 2010, finally came good and registered his highest Test score of 176 but it was Kerrigan who stole the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
The 24-year-old left-arm spinner from Lancashire conceded 53 runs from eight wicketless overs as he endured the "most chastening Ashes debut in recent memory", according to The Times. His first two overs went for an extraordinary 28 runs.
Add to that the figures from Woakes and the two debutants managed nought for 105 on the opening day.
"Before this Test, England talked about being ruthless," says Simon Hughes in the Daily Telegraph. "Their team selection was seriously at odds with that intent."
Kerrigan in particular looked riddled with nerves. He "stuttered to the wicket almost reluctant to reach the crease," writes Hughes. "It was horrible to watch."
"Painful" is how George Dobell of Cricinfo describes it. "On the biggest stage, he fluffed his lines quite horribly, reducing a packed Oval to something approaching an embarrassed silence... Kerrigan produced as wretched a performance as a specialist bowler has in Test cricket for many, many years."
The Daily Mail concurs. "The leading spinner in the Championship this season was totally consumed by nerves, bowling too slowly off barely two paces and delivering a succession of long hops and full tosses," it says. One of Kerrigan's full tosses was so high it was called as a no ball.
Most experts agree with cricket legend and Sky commentator Ian Botham who suggested that Kerrigan had gone down with the "yips" - a kind of anxiety that leaves slow bowlers unable to control the ball as they bowl it.
Botham, who began the day presenting England caps to Kerrigan and Woakes, ended it by commenting: "It's a massive step up from the second division to Tests and maybe it was a step too far [for Kerrigan]."
But there is sympathy for the spinner from Vic Marks in The Guardian, after what he calls an "excruciating" day.
He knows how it feels to make your Test debut as a spinner. "Your fingers suddenly feel like pork sausages, sweaty pork sausages at that. Meanwhile the ball somehow acquires the qualities of a melon; it will not fit in your hand. The batsman, miles down the other end, has a bat the size of a barn door and it seems that you have only seven fielders out there to defend those incredibly short boundaries." ·