The selection of Liam Dawson in England's World T20 squad in 2016 carried a message of hope for all cricketers dutifully plying their trade on the county circuit. In Hampshire's T20 campaign of 2015 Dawson played two games, scored three runs in one knock and did not take a wicket; he scored three in his solitary T20 innings. With his career faltering, he was loaned out to Essex for a month. Then, on his return to Hampshire, came a remarkable transformation.
Surrey's Zafar Ansari, who England most favoured as the next spin-bowling allrounder in line, suffered a serious hand injury and, with options scarce, Dawson was summoned to the England Performance Programme. Tough-minded and versatile, he did enough to join England's T20 World Cup squad in India, although he did not play; his England T20 debut came on his home ground at the Ageas Bowl against Sri Lanka in July 2016; an ODI debut against Pakistan also followed by the end of the summer; and the winter brought a Test debut in Chennai.
Dawson was initially overlooked as a spinning allrounder for England's Test tours of Bangladesh and India in 2016, with Ansari preferred, but Ansari was hampered by back trouble in India and Dawson joined the squad in mid-series. A Test debut followed in Chennai, where he made a dogged, unbeaten 66 batting at No. 8.
Dawson, first involved with Hampshire at 10 years old, responded with a solid county season, scoring more than 1,300 runs at 45 in all formats and taking 47 wickets with left-arm spin designed for the limited-overs format. He was chosen for England's Test squad in Bangladesh and, although he did not play, he won a contract with Rangpur Riders in the BPL.
Dawson is a former England U-19 captain who recorded the best figures for the side with 6 for 9 against Malaysia in 2007. He then steadily developed into a top order batsman with the supplementary quality of useful left-arm spin. He has grown into an integral part of Hampshire's side in all formats and is now arguably Hampshire's most versatile player, able to bat anywhere across the batting order as well as bowl in all forms of the game.
When both Shane Warne and Shaun Udal left Hampshire in 2007, Dawson gained his chance but it was as a batsmen he most impressed and, at 18, he scored a maiden first-class century at Trent Bridge in September 2008 - the youngest player to score a hundred for the county - and grew into an opening batsman, taking his chance when Michael Carberry was absent from the 2011 season, scoring two centuries. He escaped an unwanted record with the ball by the skin of his teeth, however when he was carted for five sixes in succession (and off the first five balls of an over; the final one cost only a single) by a young Ben Stokes in a Championship game against Durham.
He continued to work on his bowling overseas, taking 7 for 51 on debut for Mountaineers in Zimbabwe before the 2012 season and that summer hit the headlines by dismissing Kevin Pietersen for two golden ducks in a 40-over and T20 match. He found himself a role opening the bowling in T20, taking nine wickets at 24.22 as Hampshire won the T20 competition and a year later, 13 at 21.30 as they reached finals day for the fourth consecutive year.
Dawson put up over 1000 first-class runs for the first time in 2013. But a year later he regressed, disappointing in 10 matches of Hampshire's promotion-winning season and playing little part in T20 cricket. Something was needed to spark up his career and his loan spell at Essex did just that.
After an excellent 50-over campaign with bat and ball, he ousted fellow slow left-armer Danny Briggs from the Championship side, finding himself the county's senior spinner when Briggs moved to Sussex in search of regular cricket across all formats.
2016 was a memorable one with England debts in T20 and 50-over formats. He was overlooked as a spinning allrounder for England's Test tours of Bangladesh and India in 2016, with Ansari preferred, but Ansari was hampered by back trouble in India and Dawson joined the squad in mid-series. His unbeaten 66 in Chennai was the highest Test score by an England debutant batting at No. 8, an obscure but satisfying statistic.
Lord's against South Africa was his next call - only the second time England have fielded two specialist spinners on the ground for 30 years: he took four wickets, made a pair and gained an unwanted reputation among the media as a strikingly dull interviewee. But England's coach Trevor Bayliss and captain Joe Root regarded him as a tough and versatile competitor and he won another cap before the series was through.
Caps in limited-overs formats also built up sporadically and that Dawson, at 28, was beginning to regard himself as a one-day specialist was exemplified by his request to be excused an England Lions tour so he could play in an overseas T20 tournament. England were more forgiving of such things that they once were and his excellent T20 form for Hampshire in 2018 (by contrast he found himself batting at No 8 in the Championship) won him a place on England's one-day tour to Sri Lanka.