Tymal Mills sets pace on fast track to success

Counties are lining up to sign tyro who could be England’s answer to Mitchell Johnson, writes Richard Edwards

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The Independent Online

With Australia reeling from their First Test hammering by Pakistan in Dubai, one Englishman in particular will be watching with interest. If Alastair Cook is looking for someone to inflict similar discomfort on the Aussies in next summer’s Ashes, then pace bowler Tymal Mills might be their first port of call.

The man widely accepted as the fastest bowler in England will be hoping he can damage Australia’s top order in the same manner that he dismantled England’s during his spell as a net bowler on their ill-fated Ashes tour.

The left-arm tyro’s 90mph deliveries left Cook with a severely bruised arm and smashed Joe Root’s helmet as he pulled off a passable impression of Australia’s destroyer-in-chief, Mitchell Johnson. “I bowled well in the nets and gave the boys a bit of hammer, which I’ll always try to do,” he says. “Luckily I didn’t do Cooky any lasting damage. I enjoyed it.”

There were even calls for him to be fast-tracked into the England side as they looked to rebuild under new coach Peter Moores. “I was bowling well out in Australia when I was there and I did well on the Lions tour to Sri Lanka in February. But if Mitchell Johnson hadn’t done so well then maybe no one would have been mentioning my name at all.

“I hadn’t been to Australia before last winter so it was a really good crack. To spend two months in Australia – and the first month with the Ashes squad – was really good. We were treated as part of the squad, really.”

However, after leaving a trail of destruction in the nets Down Under, Cook’s former Essex colleague currently has had rather more prosaic matters on his mind 12 months on – like finding a county to play for next season after four injury-hit but successful years at Essex.

His future is expected to be clarified this week, with Sussex the favourites to confirm his signature. Worcestershire are also thought to be in the running. That move will end a frustrating 2014 for a bowler who ruffled more than a few feathers last winter.

After a frustrating, injury-hit season at Chelmsford that restricted him to just six matches and 134 overs, he is in a hurry to make sure that the ground he has made up in the past 12 months isn’t lost.

“Frustrating is one word for it,” he says. “I started the season really well and was enjoying it but from the middle of the season I just haven’t been able to get on the park.

However, the 22-year-old’s career is still in its infancy in more ways than one. “I didn’t play cricket until I was 14,” he says. “I was interested in everything but cricket.

“Then my mate back home told me his team were short one night and he asked me if I could help him out. They gave me a couple of overs at the end as a way of saying thanks for coming and I chucked it down pretty quickly.

“That was the start of it really. I played Suffolk Under-15, 16s and 17s and then I played a Second XI game for Essex, who offered me an academy place on the spot.”

His lightning rise through the ranks at Chelmsford confirmed his immense promise. But his departure from the county was overshadowed by suggestions from the Essex coach, Paul Grayson, that he had already agreed a deal away from the county before the season’s end. It’s a claim that Mills strongly refutes.

“It was hard [to leave Essex] because they gave me my introduction to the game and that’s all I’ve known in cricket,” he says. “But I didn’t grow up here and haven’t got any family here. I’m an open guy, I’m very independent and in terms of change it wasn’t anything that I was scared of doing. Essex were stalling a little bit on my contract. Now I would like to move on.”

If he’s fit and firing by the time the Aussies arrive next year, he could be the secret weapon that England so badly lacked last winter.