Will Jacks hits the ball long, is “an absolute gun on the pitch” and his part-time off-shoot could be a vital weapon on England’s Test tour of Pakistan.
It’s no surprise, then, that a man once seen as a potential Twenty20 international has found his way into England’s new Test setup, led by captain Ben Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum.
Indeed, he could have secured a place in the starting XI with his impressive 84 from 48 against the England Lions last week. It happened weeks after he was named MVP by the Professional Cricketers’ Association for his national performances in 2022.
“He can either come in from the first ball and smash it, or he can come in at 7 and hit with the cue, see it and go crazy at the end,” says cricket commentator Mark Church.
“The way he plays cricket, I think he will fit right into the McCullum-Stokes system.”
For much of the past few years, 23-year-old Jacks has looked increasingly set for a place in the England squad, particularly in white-ball cricket.
A run of 146 runs in the first edition of The Hundred in 2021 spoke of a player developing at a good level, as did 393 runs, including three half centuries, in the Vitality Blast.
The season just ended has seen Jacks explode his numbers in each of those competitions out of the water: the Surrey man netted 261 points in The Hundred, while working his way to a best-scoring 108 * vs. Southern Brave – only the second instance of a player reaching triple figures in the competition.
In the Blast, Jacks completed 449 carries, surpassing the half-century mark five times.
In fact, only established England stars Jos Buttler and Alex Hales, along with Pakistani ace Shan Masood, had managed more runs in the T20s than the Jacks’ tally of 1,193 in 2022 at the time of his first international call-up for the series. summer T20 of England. against Pakistan.
Add 648 top-class runs alongside 17 wickets to those numbers in 2022, and you see a player becoming a true all-format star.
Here, some of those who know him best detail what makes him special.
“He said ‘he’s not fast’…then threw his best fast thrower over his head”
Mike Tilley is a former age group manager at Guildford Cricket Club. Tilley coached a young Jacks for many years, including a triumphant season in the National U15 T20 Cup.
“He played a big part in a number of rounds [in the National Cup]. He scored 50 points in the semi-final very quickly and another 30 in the final,” Tilley recalled.
“I particularly remember the final, the opposition had a fast opening pitcher who pretty much took his team to the final. I just told him to watch out for him.
“He replied ‘he’s not fast’ and sent it over his head in the first round.”
At club and county level, Jacks was often the star of the show, and Tilley recalls one instance where the batter showed his true prowess.
“I remember him scoring a double cent for Surrey Under-17s. The second cent came in under an hour.
“He definitely gave you the impression that he was going to be a pro from an early age – he always worked on all aspects of his game in training: especially his stick, but he always wanted to play a role in the game, which I think is why he is such a good defender and why at 15 he started bowling.
“He always had a touch of arrogance about him, but he was a good team man.”
“No one hits that hard”
Corey Rocchiccioli played a season of Western Australia Premier Cricket with Jacks for Western Australia University in 2018 and lived with him during that time.
Rocchiccioli remembers Jacks’ first major contribution to freshman cricket – a double ton against Claremont-Nedlands, after being dismissed for a golden duck the previous week.
“He just brushed it [the duck] off and made a double cent the following week. He just had one of those stream state games, he really enjoyed banging there. There was a conversation about him knowing exactly what he was on, counting his runs down to his double cent.
“I don’t think I’ve played with anyone who found the middle of the bat as much as he did, or hit it as hard. He’s just an exceptional cricketer.
“He ended up doing 600 or 700 runs; he left in mid-January to be called up for the England Lions, but he was on track for a thousand-run season. He would have done it quite comfortably .”
Off the pitch, Rocchiccioli thinks Jacks is as good a character as he is, despite some questionable skills in the house.
“It took us a while to teach him how to cook, there were some very sketchy moments with him in the kitchen.
“One is at test level and the other is playing in the lowest division ever, you can figure out which is which between his cricket skills and his chief skills.
“His banter around the house was really good – my family and I like to give it away so he fit in perfectly. He probably gave it back as much as he got it, we gave him a lot of stick around joint, especially after he’s made his double cent, to put him back on the ground.”
‘Shades of AB de Villiers’
Middlesex striker Max Holden captained the Jacks for the England Under-19s and played with him for the England Lions.
“I didn’t use his bowling skills as much as I probably should have, but with the bat, at that age, he led the way with that positive intention in the middle order.
“[He was] amazing how he shifted into high gear, the range of shots he had. He hit him pretty much all around the floor, which very few people can do. It seemed relatively low risk, but he scored so quickly.
“It’s so hard to establish ground for him because he can hit the ball anywhere really with such power and precision – it’s not just someone who goes out there and just swinging and hitting, he’s pretty precise in how he goes about it – obviously he’s got massive power when he hits it.
“He’s a very effective spin player, he’s got pretty much every shot in the book, so I think he’ll adapt his game there. [the subcontinent]. Sometimes getting to the middle and starting against the spin can be a different challenge than opening in England.
“He has the ability to hit the ball around the ground, manipulate the pitch and if he wants to, he can clear the spinner strings as well.
“He used to hit me a bit in the net. He’s obviously quite tall so he can hit you quite easily. It’s quite difficult to know the exact length of the bowl because if you throw him he can go down the wicket, but if you go too short he can swing back and hit the ball beyond the bounds of the back foot.
“I think it’s something the best players in the world can do, the guys from Middlesex who have come here, like [AB] De Villiers: They can hit the back foot, which is something I think is quite rare, and that’s a sign of an international player from what I’ve seen. Jacksy can definitely do that.
“The way England are going with their Test cricket, the way they are looking to play this positive and exciting brand of cricket, I think he would fit in perfectly.”
‘The complete package’
Mark Church, a BBC cricket reporter, watched and interacted with Jacks for years while commentating on Surrey matches.
“He’s very focused, he’s very determined, and he’s really his own man, which I really, really like.
“He likes the responsibility, and I think because Surrey told him ‘it’s your job’, it probably made it simpler for him: he knew he was the go-to.
“This season his development has been absolutely fascinating. He’s an incredibly talented lad, but I think we all knew the talent was there.
“We all know what he can do in white ball cricket, we’ve seen that over the years. The cent he got in The Hundred: it just showed what it’s all about.
“In terms of red-ball cricket, the path he is going right now is not the one I thought was coming.
“With bat he’s really everything I expected. With the ball – there’s a lot of people calling him a part-time spinner, I’ve never gone that route because he’s much better than that.Like any young spinner, he’s a work in progress, but he’s a true spinner.
“It’s an absolute gun in the field, you can put it anywhere. You can stick it on the boundary to sweep, you can stick it on the short leg, you can stick it on the slides, it’s just one of those, it’s an absolute natural.
“You put those three things together and you put it in the right place, you’ve got one hell of a player in all forms of the game.
“I saw [Mark] Butcher, [Mark] Ramprakash, [Graham] Thorpe, and I think Jacksy would be up there.
“As far as all the cricketers I’ve seen over these many years, there aren’t many who do what he does.”