John Turner’s selection for England’s four-match T20I series against New Zealand has sparked much discussion. However, the most notable aspect is the remarkable speed at which this emerging pace talent has advanced.
Only 70 days passed between his debut for Hampshire – where he took 3 wickets for 30 runs against Middlesex – and the call he received from national selector Luke Wright on Tuesday. During this period, he achieved an impressive feat: securing 21 wickets in the Vitality Blast, consistently delivering balls above 90mph, making an impact on England scouts, and debuting in The Hundred where he dismissed Jonny Bairstow, marking his first wicket for Trent Rockets. While a 22-year-old’s life is typically dynamic, Turner himself acknowledges that the rapid progression of the last two months has been “unbelievable.”
This was also the sentiment of his parents, who reside in Johannesburg, South Africa, where Turner was born. He holds a British passport through his mother, who was born in Zambia to English parents as her father worked for the British Government during that time. When Turner initially called them in disbelief, they thought something was amiss, suspecting it might be an elaborate prank.
Turner reflects on their reaction, stating, “When I informed them, they experienced shock, rendering them speechless… probably similar to my own reaction when Luke Wright phoned me. They underwent a sense of shock, yet simultaneously felt immense pride and happiness.”
Turner had an inkling that such an opportunity might be on the horizon. Hampshire’s director of cricket, Giles White, and bowling coach, Graeme Welch, gave him a heads-up about a national scout observing his performance against Sussex (where he took 2 wickets for 30 runs). England’s interest was piqued the previous year when Turner claimed 20 wickets in the 2022 One-Day Cup. His impressive speed and unexpected bounce, arising from a high release point, led to his inclusion in a list of potential talents as soon as he fulfilled the ECB’s selection criteria after completing the required residency period, which began at the end of 2020 after the UK’s borders reopened following the initial Covid-19 wave.
Pandemic’s Impact on Career Choice
Turner speculates that the peculiar circumstances brought about by the pandemic’s initial wave might have influenced his father’s decision to allow him to pursue a cricket career. He elaborates, “It took a lot of convincing for them to let me come over and pursue cricket here. It was probably during Covid my dad was like, ‘You know what, go over, give it a go – if it’s a year or two and it doesn’t work out, it’s fine.’ Then probably towards the end of 2021 and 2022, he started realizing I might actually be good enough to make cricket a profession.”
As part of the arrangement, Turner committed to attending Exeter University to study Economics and Finance. However, his extraordinary progress in cricket has introduced uncertainty regarding his third year, which was scheduled to start in September.
Turner’s Path from Uncertainties to Cricketing Opportunity”
Moving to the UK held uncertainties but wasn’t a gamble. Dale Benkenstein, current Gloucestershire coach, fostered Turner’s cricket development at Hilton College in South Africa. Benkenstein’s past role as Hampshire’s head coach provided connections. Turner explains, “He linked us and got us in contact. I spent two weeks in Hampshire while in school to experience professional cricket and showcase my skills. Since then, their interest persisted.”
Turner playfully minimizes it as “not my greatest ball,” yet it remains a favorite. Competition arises from Monday’s performance: “Jonny Bairstow’s dismissal was cool. I enjoy hitting the stumps – anything with the stumps, they fly out.”
Asked about realizing his speed, he responds, “It’s a good question because I still struggle to think I’m [quick]. Probably early this year, action-wise clicked. Last year, my pace was decent but insufficient for selection based solely on speed. Working with Graeme Welch, my Hampshire bowling coach, adjusted my actions. Timing and elements fell into place.”
Even impressive shortest-format performances surprised him. Turner’s consistent length, likened to Glenn McGrath by Benkenstein, earmarked him for red-ball cricket. With three first-class appearances, he notched 10 wickets at an average of 10.50 this summer. His ambition spans formats.
Turner’s Path to Excellence
Turner reflects on his cricket journey, expressing, “I never saw myself as a white-ball player, and neither did Dale Benkenstein. My focus was on red-ball cricket at Hampshire. The surprise selection for England motivated me to excel in all formats.”
Analyzing his performance, Turner attributes success to generating extra bounce, hitting the bat harder, and maintaining accuracy. This precision lets him deliver precise deliveries throughout innings. Turner thrives in high-pressure moments, aiming to create a meaningful impact.
His enthusiasm for pressure was visible in a recent Hundred game. He remarks, “I enjoy pressure situations. In the recent Hundred game, bowling the last set brought genuine enjoyment. I felt unexpectedly calm.”
Timing swiftly led Turner to England’s setup. Ongoing T20Is refine skills for the 50-over World Cup squad’s upcoming workload while assessing bench strength, including Turner, Gus Atkinson, and Luke Wood. Established players like Chris Jordan and Tymal Mills aren’t currently considered.
Turner’s journey combines hard work, risk-taking, and talent. England’s fortune lies in its rapid emergence.