Westley humbled by England call up


A morning telephone call from the National Selector James Whitaker, an unusually emotional conversation with his dad, and a good luck message from Alastair Cook’s four-year-old daughter.

They have been some of the highlights of a memorable Thursday for Tom Westley, the 28-year-old Essex batsman, who has been chosen to make his England debut in the third Investec Test against South Africa which starts at the Kia Oval one week today.

“I had James Whitaker’s number stored on my ‘phone from previous Lions selections, so when I saw it come up I was hoping for good news – but nothing can prepare you until it happens,” Westley said.

“There was a long pause on the phone – I think he wondered if I was still there. But I was just trying to take it in. This is why you get into cricket, because you want to play for England.

“It’s all just snowballed from there really, lots of calls and congratulations. In that respect it’s been a very humbling day.”

Westley, who is from Cambridge, started playing cricket at the Mildenhall club in Suffolk, then moved to Saffron Walden before signing for Essex, and continued his cricketing education at Durham University.

“I owe a lot to so many people, but my dad has been the most influential person in my career,” he added.

“He was the first person I spoke to after the news came through. He’s a builder, and he’s not known for being very emotional. But he told me he was very proud, and sad he might have to nip around the back of the scaffolding to shed a tear – in a monotone way, obviously.”

One of the first calls Westley received was from Cook – a long-time Essex team-mate, and this season a more regular batting partner, with both playing key roles in the county’s successful return to Division One of the Specsavers County Championship.

“Cooky called me this morning, just to say congratulations, the usual stuff between team-mates – if he could help in any way, he’d be on the end of a phone,” Westley revealed. “He was in the car with his daughter Elsie actually, so she said congratulations to me as well.

“I’ve learned so much from Cooky over the years. One of the big things is his demeanour, not just as a batsman but also as a person. He’s an unbelievable role model, and after seeing him close-up with Essex for so long I’m looking forward to seeing him with England. We’ve had quite a few good partnerships with Essex, so hopefully we can do the same for England.”

Westley has batted himself to the top of the queue of middle order hopefuls with his performances for the England Lions over the last six months, impressing on the winter tour of Sri Lanka and then in scoring a century against the South Africans at Worcester last month.

“I appreciate everything in Test cricket is going to be another step up in intensity, but I can take confidence from having faced the majority of their bowlers a few weeks ago and scored some runs,” he added. “But for me the key is going to be replicating what I’ve been doing with Essex.”

Westley will play in Essex’s NatWest T20 Blast match against Hampshire at the Cloud FM County Ground in Chelmsford on Friday night before switching his focus back to red-ball cricket, ahead of what promises to be a memorable week.