Around June time last year Jade Dernbach was bowling beautifully in pretty much all forms of the game, that is until he pulled up lame at Lords in the Twenty20 match with Middlesex. It turns out that before that game he had been informed of his call up to an England Lions squad for the first time, so to say it was a poorly timed injury is putting it mildly.
It was a good few weeks before he was back in the side, he missed the remainder of the T20 campaign and a chunk of the back end of our season . However he was still our leading wicket taker and as reward he bagged himself a spot on the Performance Programme for the winter tour to Australia, continuing as it is now in to the West Indies.
Regular readers of the blog know that I'm a big fan of Jade's. Some people might be put off by his South African roots, his slightly brash exterior or even his many tattoos, but I'm not. Regular readers might also have mistaken my eulogising that he always gives his absolute all as shorthand for saying 'tries hard but is a bit crap', but that could not be further from the truth.
Dernbach has been at times a very frustrating bowler, a few too many loose balls that have seemed to have shifted momentum in games. That's not unfair, over the years he has had bowled erratically here and there, but there's no doubt that he's been on an upward trajectory, especially in the last 18 months. He's a relatively late blossomer (despite winning the NBC Denis Compton Award in 2004 and 2009), he turns 25 the week before the season kicks off, but maybe that just means he's got all the more experience to draw on. He's quick enough (high 80s and even the odd 90mph delivery if the Sky speedguns are to be believed) and I hate to belabour the point, but his slower ball really is one of the best around.
It was Dernbach's 5-16 yesterday which sealed a three day innings win for the England Lions against the Leeward Islands (backed up very ably by Buck, Briggs, Hildreth and Co.) and you sense he might be around the junior squad a bit more this year - someone in the Performance Programme obviously sees something special. 2011 could be a really big year for Dernbach, if he can stay fit and keep firing he should be looking at 60-70 wickets, and who knows where from there.
What excites me is that in Dernbach and Meaker we have two bowlers who have a tendency to bowl if not quite 'unplayable' then whatever is next down from unplayable, justaboutplayable (and fast) seam bowling spells. Yes there will be the odd four ball, but you'll also get wickets into the bargain.
With Tremlett likely to be absent on England duty for long periods you'd think we might be scraping the barrel, but we aren't. In Arafat, Meaker and Dernbach, plus Linley and Jordan for good measure, we actually have pretty healthy looking fast bowling stocks.