Glamorgan v Yorkshire CCC, Royal London Cup: Josh Sullivan giving it a rip in nod to Shane Warne

IT was not so long ago that you were more likely to come across a woolly mammoth than you were a wrist-spinner, with the species more or less extinct in cricket.

Thursday, 12th August 2021, 5:47 am

Apart from the likes of Abdul Qadir, the great Pakistani exponent, wrist-spin, or leg-spin, was a dying art, a bit like roundarm and underarm bowling.

But that all changed when a beach bum from St Kilda spectacularly brought it back into fashion.

His name was Shane Warne, and he inspired a whole generation of cricketing woolly mammoths, whose tusks and talents are prized the world over.

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Making his mark: Josh Sullivan bowls for Yorkshire against Notts in the royal London Cup. Pictures: SWPix.

One of the many inspired by Warne was Yorkshire’s Josh Sullivan, the 21-year-old who has just debuted for the first XI.

Born in Leeds, and the elder brother of 18-year-old left-arm spinner Harry, who is on the Yorkshire Academy, Sullivan made his bow two days after celebrating his 21st, taking 1-43 in the rain-ruined Royal London Cup game against Nottinghamshire at York last Friday, when the visitors reached 185-5 from 33 overs in the only play possible.

Sullivan followed up with 4-11 against Derbyshire at Chesterfield on Sunday, taking three wickets in the first four balls of his spell, as Yorkshire won another rain-affected contest by eight wickets with eight balls left, after the game had been reduced to 10 overs per team.

They head into their final group match against Glamorgan in Cardiff today knowing that another win could send them through to the knockout stages, with Sullivan retaining his place in the squad as he follows the art resurrected by Warne.

Well done: Yorkshire's Josh Sullivan is congratulated by Jack Tattersall on dismissing Nottinghamshire's Liam Patterson-White.

“Shane Warne was my hero, I suppose, growing up,” said Sullivan. “I didn’t really see him play live, though, because I was only very young at the time, but I’ve watched a lot of YouTube videos of him bowling.

“I used to model my action on him when I was younger. My action has become a bit more unique since then, but he was definitely a big influence.”

There is still a hint of Warne, perhaps, in Sullivan’s approach, even if the young man’s style is distinctive.

Like Warne, he looks as if he likes to give the ball a good rip and that he possesses a positive, attacking mentality, attributes that could carry him far.

You Tube hero: Australia spin legend Shane Warne, celebrating his 600th Test wicket in 2013.

Sullivan soaks up any leg-spin that he views on the circuit – he has one of its best modern exponents at Yorkshire, of course, in Adil Rashid.

Rashid continually shows just how valuable a good leg-spinner can be in white-ball cricket, with Sullivan hoping to play all formats of the game for Yorkshire going forward.

“I try to watch and learn from any leg-spinner in the pro game,” he said. “‘Rash’, when he’s been around at Yorkshire, has been a good help to me, and I always like looking at different types of bowlers.

“I like to look at how leg-spinners bowl, the fields they set and stuff like that. It (leg-spin) can be a really valuable part of the game – you look at how well people like Matt Parkinson are doing, for example, and the likes of Mason Crane and Matt Critchley and so on, and it’s really great to see.”

Sullivan’s potential has been clear from a young age. In one of his earliest games for Yorkshire Under-14s, he took 5-2 from nine overs against Lincolnshire at Scunthorpe, including eight maidens.

Not that he is getting carried away. He reflected with endearing modesty on his four-wicket haul against Derbyshire.

“I just tried to hit a good length to make it hard for them to hit me, and luckily it paid off,” he said. “I was just trying to get dots and the wickets just helped; to get three in four balls was great, but it can go one of two ways in a short game like that.

“I was just happy to contribute and I haven’t really thought too far ahead. I just want to keep things simple and try to perform in each game I play; that’s all I can do really.”

There is good competition in the spin department. Although Rashid is rarely available due to his England commitments, Yorkshire have another international in Dom Bess, the emerging Sullivan brothers, off-spinner Jack Shutt, who made his own one-day debut earlier in this tournament, and Sam Wisniewski, the left-arm spinner who played T20 for the club last year among their ranks of rising stars.

“We’ve got a great stock of spinners at Yorkshire,” said Sullivan. “There’s good competition, and when you get the opportunity you just want to keep performing, because you know that there’s good spinners there who can take your place. But it’s healthy competition; we all sponge off each other and talk to each other a lot about different ideas and situations.

“Me and Shutty are good mates, for example, we’ve known each other for a long time and I want him to do well and vice-versa.”