It was reported at the end of May that with Essex flying high in the county championship Tom Westley had made a seamless step up in class to deal with the demands of Division one cricket. At the end of July there was further evidence of his class with a solid debut for England at the Oval. Scores of 25 and 59 were a key part of the big win against South Africa and although one game is not enough to make a full judgement, the signs are encouraging that England may have at last found their number three batsman.
Test cricket of course is another major step up and with it comes a level of intensity unlikely to be experienced at county level. Slow motion replays, split screens, pitch maps, experts and former players all combine to forensically analyse a players every move. And that is just the TV. Add in all the column inches in the press and it is no wonder that a players head can get scrambled.
By his own admission he was very disappointed to get out for 25 in the first innings. Cue the experts. Favours leg side too much. Bat face is closed. Bottom hand is too strong. These comments could easily have distracted him and affected his second innings performance. But temperament is just as important as skill and ability and it was here that Tom excelled as he compiled his first half century in Test cricket. In particular the morning session on day four presented a stern test of all those qualities.
It does not take an expert to work out that if a batsman is strong off his legs then it is unwise to bowl there. This is what South Africa did, trying to keep it outside off stump and restrict his scoring opportunities. So here we had fascinating passage of play where the batsman is waiting for the bowler to err, the bowler is waiting for the batsman to lose patience. Bat versus ball. Who blinks first? Test cricket at its best.
So it was appropriate that after nearly two hours of waiting a leg side half volley did come along and was despatched to midwicket to bring up a maiden test fifty. England would have set targets for the declaration and maybe the rush at the spinner that resulted in being stumped for 59 was part of the effort to push on.
As has been stated in the reviews anyone not knowing that Tom was making his debut would have thought he had been playing Test cricket for some time, such was his calmness at the crease and his ability to accumulate runs when the bowling is tight. This is all very positive for the future and it is to be hoped that more runs come in the next Test at Old Trafford and then against the West Indies. If that all goes to plan the ultimate series for an Englishman beckons with the Ashes series that starts at Brisbane in November. Fingers crossed.