Liam Dawson: ‘I don’t want to be running drinks for England at my age’

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Liam Dawson has conceded that his ambitions as a Test cricketer are at an end after missing England’s tour of India this winter, saying that he was happy with his decision to prioritise commitments in overseas T20 leagues rather than potentially wind up running the drinks again as an unused squad member.

Dawson, who won the last of his three Test caps in 2017, was the leading English spinner in last year’s County Championship, taking 49 wickets at 20.00 – in addition to scoring 840 runs – but was not included in the group to take on India. He had previously indicated that he would have to weigh up whether to accept an England call, having agreed a lucrative contract to play for Sunrisers Eastern Cape in the SA20, a tournament that clashed directly with the start of the Test tour, and in which he ended up lifting the trophy.

England instead selected the uncapped pair of Tom Hartley and Shoaib Bashir alongside Rehan Ahmed, with one Test appearance to his name, and the experienced Jack Leach. Hartley went on to be England’s leading wicket-taker on tour, with 22 at 36.13, while Bashir claimed the first two five-wicket hauls of his first-class career to finish with 17 at 33.35. Even with Leach ruled out due to injury after the first Test, there was no move to call up a replacement, with England eventually slumping to a 4-1 series defeat.

Speaking at Hampshire’s media day ahead of the start of the County Championship season, Dawson said that there had been “a few conversations” with the selectors over the winter but that, at the age of 34, he felt his international career was likely behind him.

Asked if he was still keen to play Test cricket, he told ESPNcricinfo: “Probably not now, no. Being honest, there’s a few things that have happened over the last year. For me, probably Test cricket now is completely off the radar. But it is what it is, I’m 34 and I want to enjoy my cricket and try to win trophies towards the end of my career.

“Knowing that going to South Africa, knowing I was going to play there – obviously with the [Sunrisers] coach, Adi Birrell, here at Hampshire, I knew I was going to play, which was nice. It’s not something I want to be doing, running drinks at my age anymore. I was really happy with what I chose this winter and it went well.”

Dawson has won 20 England caps across three formats going back to 2016, as well as an ODI World Cup winners’ medal in 2019. He was a travelling reserve for both the 2021 and 2022 T20 World Cups, but said he did not expect to be in the mix for this year’s tournament in the Caribbean and USA.

“I think with my age, 34, realistically that’s probably gone to be honest. There’s been a few things happened over the last few months. Speaking to [England selector] Luke Wright, I know where I stand. I don’t expect to play. I’m looking forward to playing for Hampshire this season, and the Hundred with London Spirit.”

That Dawson, a spin-bowling allrounder, had re-entered the frame for Test selection more than seven years on from making his debut in India was in part reflective of the challenge for young English spinners to come through the system – one summed up at Hampshire by the fact the club have allowed Mason Crane (one Test cap in 2018) to join Glamorgan on loan in search of game time.

With the rain teeming down at the Utilita Bowl a week before the start of the county season, Dawson said there were no easy answers.

“Without doubt, it’s very, very difficult. I’m lucky enough that I bat as well, so that’s made a huge difference over my career. I’ve always batted in the top seven so that balances teams out. If you’re just an out-and-out spinner it’s not easy to play in these conditions, the time of the year we play. There’s no ideal scenario, what gives, what doesn’t? When do you play Championship cricket? It’s a tough thing to do. If you’re an out-an-out spinner it can be difficult to get game time with the weather, but I’m not sure how you can change that.

“I didn’t watch a huge amount [of the Tests in India]. I was in South Africa, so I watched bits and pieces. They [Hartley and Bashir] did very well. They’re good bowlers. I faced Bashir last year here, I thought he was a really good bowler, and the same with Tom Hartley when we played them in Southport, very consistent. Hopefully they can continue to do well.”

Having spent several winters fulfilling 12th man duties on tour with England, Dawson on this occasion leapt at the chance to enhance his T20 CV, playing for Melbourne Stars in Australia’s Big Bash League, followed by a full season at the SA20 – where he helped Sunrisers to retain their title – and then two appearances in the knockout stages of the ILT20 with Gulf Giants, although on that occasion he was unable to add to what is an impressive, and growing, collection of silverware.

“It was a really nice winter, nice to perform,” he said. “Nice to get the opportunity as well, to play for a few different teams. But it’s always nice to come back to your home county and get ready for a season.

“I’m really excited, I love coming back here. It’s the same for everyone at this time of year. We’ve got a huge goal as a team, to try and win trophies here. It’s something we’ve done over the years, we’ve competed in all formats. It’s not different, hopefully we can compete in all formats and maybe win a trophy.””

Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick

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