Bess Foot Forward: Meeting Dom Bess

On Monday 8th May I had the privilege of sitting down with Dom Bess at the CACG for an interview to be published in Sidmouth Magazine, a publication created for Sidmouth where Dom is from and whose cricket club gave the young man his first experience of the game. 

The article was published on Friday 26th May and the full interview available below. 

Dom Bess certainly knows how to make an introduction. Called up for his County Championship debut by title-chasing Somerset with just three games left in the 2016 season, Dom put in a performance that so nearly rewrote the history books whilst helping his side to a win.

And, in his second appearance, and Somerset’s last of the season, the youngster from Sidmouth again produced an amazing match changing performance to help his side to another victory and further confirm his credentials.

And all this so soon after his 19th birthday with only two other professional games under his belt.

Dom’s playing days started at his local club in Sidmouth. Part of a cricket mad family, his cousins Josh, Zach and Luke all play for the Devon Premier League champions with the latter also captain of Devon. And Dom’s love of the game was formed in his home town, although, so strong was the squad at Sidmouth that Dom found himself with limited opportunities to impress:

“I was sports mad – cricket and a massive rugby player as my dad and uncle played for Exeter. I was down the club with dad every Saturday playing until dark.

“I joined Sidmouth CC when I was really young and played whenever I could. That’s where I learnt to play. I got to 15-16 and was struggling to get in the first team so decided to take up an option to join Exeter. And it was the best move I made as I played a lot and made some progress.”

Dom was impressing playing for Exeter and Devon and he spent the 2015-16 winter at Darren Lehmann’s Adelaide academy:

“It was only last winter that it really took off for me. I was at Blundell’s School and playing a lot and went to Australia in winter, which was the last year of the ECB sending out eight youngsters, so I was lucky to get an opportunity there. This came after Matt (Maynard) asked me if I wanted to go and this really kick-started everything.

“Before that I was working towards a scholarship at Somerset. It was great playing cricket for twelve months of the year as I gained a good understanding of whether I wanted to be a professional and play all the time. And I did. ”

Dom was seen by Somerset’s Jason Kerr whilst playing for Devon and was asked to play 2nd XI games against Kent and Hampshire where he bowled to the likes of Sam Billings and Daniel Bell-Drummond. He eventually signed a scholarship contract with Somerset, having joined the club’s academy when he was 16 and he represented England Under-19s.

The first-class debut came out of the blue last July when Dom was picked to play against the touring Pakistanis. It was a fairly quiet first start for the debutant but it gave him a chance to share the field with some world-class players:

“I was playing for the seconds at Taunton Vale and they (the Pakistanis) were practicing. We were trying to concentrate on our game but in truth we were watching them.

“Matt Maynard came over and told me I would be playing against them and it was a shock. I had to get my passport to Sally in the office as I wasn’t registered. It was a strange feeling. There I was fielding in the slips with Marcus Trescothick close by and Peter Trego the captain. And watching Younis Khan batting. Incredible!”

There was another shock when Dom was selected to play in a T20 game at Hampshire – Somerset’s last in a disappointing campaign:

“I didn’t see that coming. It was a good opportunity though to get that feel of first team cricket. Quite a few turned out in Hampshire and Afridi was playing – class opponent. A big step up again. And, looking back, I was improving all the time if only by the standard of the opposition.”

And so came that amazing debut in the County Championship. In one day at Taunton 21 wickets fell and Dom took 6 for 21 including Warwickshire’s former England pair Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell in successive balls. His figures were the best by a Somerset championship debutant since Tony Pearson took 7 for 63 against Worcestershire in Bristol in 1961.

“Going into that game I was so confident. I had scored 141 for the second team against Gloucestershire and knew I was bowling well too. I didn’t have any time to be nervous and wasn’t until we were six wickets down and I knew I would have to bat soon.

“We were rolled out for 95 and I got a good ball. And you only get ten minutes to change around so, again, no time to get nervous.

“I took an early catch that I didn’t see and just thought that it was going to be my day.

“I thought the ball that got Trott was going to be four when it left my hand but he skied it and Tres took the catch. I don’t remember the ball that got Bell. It wasn’t until we were in the huddle and he was walking back to the pavilion that I realised what I had achieved.”

Dom was bowling well in tandem with his friend and fellow “spin twin” Jack Leach and felt like he could take a wicket with every ball.

In the club’s final game of the season Dom followed up with 5 for 43 against Nottinghamshire to send Somerset briefly to the top of the table, only to be passed by Middlesex on the final day. He also scored 41 to gain Somerset a vital fourth batting point. In many ways this performance was more rewarding than the first:

“People ask which was most enjoyable, and you have to enjoy taking six on debut, but the second game showed that it wasn’t luck. And it was a good batting wicket with several players getting tons so really pleasing.”

It was a fabulous career start for the young man. The youngster found himself in the full glare of the press – TV, radio and national newspapers – but proved he had not lost his humility with one famous quote. When asked how he came to bowl offspin his response was notable:

“I was always a little porker when I was younger, so I never took the long run-up. I always took five or six steps and just trotted in.”

Now contracted to Somerset, Dom did not play in Somerset’s first two Championship games this season and is desperate to play more for the first team:

“Eventually I want to get my place back and hold it. But I want to play in all formats. And I want to establish myself as a batsman too. I think I showed I can handle a bat last season but want to do more.”

Dom lives at home with his parents in Sidford and travels in to Taunton for training every day. What does he like most about life and being on the East Devon coast?

“Sidmouth is a great place to live. It is clean and safe and the people are easy going.

“And I am lucky to play cricket; I get to meet loads of people and travel the world but I stay grounded.

“At the end of the day I play cricket for a living – that is all. Cricketers aren’t saving people’s lives – we play cricket and I am very lucky. No-one lets me get carried away with myself; not my mum or day and especially not my cousins!”