Lawrence on his return to training


When Dan Lawrence dreamt as a boy of playing for England he can never have imagined it would involve thermometers, face masks and hand sanitisers.

However, like the other 29 England contenders assembling in Southampton next week for training ahead of the three-Test series against the West Indies, the fast-maturing Essex batsman is having to get used to the protocols that make up cricket’s new normal in this COVID-19 era.

Lawrence explains: “It all sounds like a lot of rules, but I’m sure we’ll get used to it very quickly and it will become second nature.”

The 22-year-old has already had a taste of the way things are going to be in the immediate future. He has just finished a period of individual training within the England set-up before entering the bio-secure bubble at the Ageas Bowl from Tuesday.

Before setting off for those sessions at the Oval, Lawrence says: “Every morning you have to check your temperature to make sure it’s not above 37.5 degrees. If it’s above 37.5 degrees, you can’t go to training. Every day you have to fill out an online questionnaire so the physios know how you are feeling.

“Then there’s lots of hand sanitiser and social distancing. They give you your own set of balls which no one else is allowed to touch. The one-skin policy. Under this, the balls that the coaches throw down at us are their balls. I’m not allowed to touch them with my hands. So instead of picking the ball up and tossing it back to them, I have to hit it back.

“It was a bit strange at the first session because your natural reaction is to go and pick it up. But anytime you tried to do that all the coaches went, ‘No, no, you can’t do that’. But, to be honest, we’ve got used to it now.

“It sounds like a lot of procedure, but it’s really not that difficult. I think because the boys are so happy to be back training that we’re going to do everything we can to make sure we keep following the guidelines. I can’t see any issues.”

The ECB have sent the players an extensive email of instructions before they go into lockdown in Hampshire, with Lawrence adding: “They have created this bubble that no one is allowed in, only the players. They’re trying to create the most secure environment they can where we’re getting tested frequently, once a week.

“It’s going to be quite simple, I think. We’re going to be training a lot, and there’s a golf course on-site and I suspect we’ll be there during most of our downtime. We’ll end up staying in the hotel, having dinner there every night, and trying to hit as many balls as possible during the day.”

Though this is Lawrence’s first involvement with the senior squad, he has progressed along the pathway of England Under-19s and Lions, with whom he excelled last winter, and there will be plenty of familiar faces behind the masks.

“With it being a very young group, I have actually interacted with most of the lads quite a lot, so fitting in with the group shouldn’t be much of an issue.”

The plan is for a three-day inter-squad match on Wednesday week after which the team for the first Test on July 8 will be named.

Lawrence has spent lockdown at girlfriend Lydie’s family home just outside Basingstoke.

“As a cricketer being furloughed, there’s not too much you can achieve cricket-wise, but I did try and do everything I could to make sure I’m in the best possible nick for the upcoming events.

“There are very strict rules governing furlough: no communication with any staff at Essex for a start. Obviously you can catch up and things like that, but you can’t have any structured sessions. But I think all of us are old enough and ugly enough to work out what we have to do for ourselves. It’s really quite self-explanatory: keep as fit as you can and make sure when the time comes that you are ready to go. And that’s what I’ve been doing.

“But, yeah, I was desperate to get the bat back in my hands and thankfully it has been going all right so far.”