Crank it up, Craig! Somerset star Overton’s pace can unsettle Essex in Lord’s final and lead to England recall
- Paceman as played huge part in taking Somerset to the showpiece five-day final
- Overton has taken 28 wickets in five games in this year’s first-class competition
- He has the chance to showcase the extra pace that England demanded of him
Craig Overton has the chance on Wednesday to showcase the extra pace that England demanded of him when he spearheads Somerset’s latest attempt to land that elusive red-ball title.
A conversation with national selector Ed Smith last year inspired changes in the older Overton twin’s action and a glut of wickets in the Bob Willis Trophy. Now he hopes it will lead to a Test return.
‘I just wanted to find out ways I could get in the England side and stay there, so I had a chat with Ed after last year’s Ashes,’ says Overton. ‘He said if I added a bit of pace and more control, that would be a big deal for me, so it was nice to know what the selectors were thinking. Then you have to go away and do it.’
The fast bowler has the chance to showcase the extra pace that England demanded of him
Overton, 26, has done just that with 28 wickets in five games in this year’s first-class competition. He has played a huge part in taking Somerset to the showpiece five-day final against Essex at Lord’s, where he hopes to take a step towards a Test recall.
‘I feel I’ve done OK for England without showing what I can do at my best,’ says Overton, who played the last of his four Tests in the Ashes at Old Trafford last year. ‘That sometimes happens, so hopefully if I get another chance I take it with both hands.
‘I’ve had a taste of Test cricket and it’s given me an extra desire to get back in. Now it’s just making sure I don’t get ahead of myself and do the basics right for Somerset and take wickets. If I score a few runs, that will help me get into the side, too.’
Overton, who impressed England with his character, has made small technical changes to an action that was not quite penetrative enough in those four matches against Australia and New Zealand, in which he took nine wickets.
Craig Overton has taken 28 wickets in five games in this year’s first-class competition
‘I’ve increased my run-up speed a bit — in the England set-up we wear GPS things and we know the run-up speed I need to get to. I’m loading up a bit later so it becomes more snappy when I bowl, rather than being long and slow. It’s not massive, but I’m aiming to give myself the best chance to bowl as fast as I can.
‘I spent time over the winter trying to groove things and I’ve picked up that yard of pace I was asked to find. I tried to do that without losing the action I’ve always had. Adding a yard of pace is a massive thing and hopefully it continues to come out all right in the final. It’s still a work in progress because it’s only my first summer with it. If I keep doing it, more often than not I will take wickets.’
It all means Craig is challenging twin Jamie, who will miss the final after joining Surrey on loan in advance of a permanent deal, as the fastest bowler in the family.
‘I like to think I’m bowling almost as quickly as him now,’ smiles Overton, who is three minutes older than Jamie. ‘Jamie’s still got me on out-and-out pace but I feel like I’ve more to offer with the skills of bowling. He’s got the away swinger but I’ve got the inswinger and wobble seam, so I’ve got more deliveries.’
Overton is more mature now than he was as a tearaway who got himself in disciplinary hot water in the earlier stages of his career.
Back then, he went a little too far in his pursuit of aggression —notably when he was banned for two matches five years ago under the totting up procedure for allegedly making a racist remark to Sussex’s Ashar Zaidi.
Overton has played a huge part in taking Somerset to the showpiece five-day final at Lord’s
He is adamant he has learnt his lesson. ‘I’ve always been on the edge as a cricketer and as a youngster you can sometimes overstep the mark,’ says Overton. ‘I’ve learnt from my mistakes. I had a few sessions with a specialist to make sure I could control my emotions. It’s not good to have outbursts, but I’ve now got ways of dealing with these things and that’s been good for me.
‘I have matured as I’ve got older and calmed down as a bowler. It’s five years since the last time I did something wrong, so I do think I’ve changed. I don’t look back on it fondly but it’s something that can happen as a young person.
‘I will keep on working to make sure nothing happens in future. You do need to be able to get into battles with batters as a fast bowler and I still have that. I’m still quite loud on the field but it’s making sure I keep controlling that and enjoy my cricket.’
He has enjoyed Somerset’s run to this unique red-ball final — famously, they have never won a Championship title after numerous near misses — so much that he has committed his future to the county despite offers to follow Jamie out the door.
‘It was about making sure I had the best opportunities to get back in that England side,’ says Overton. ‘I felt I could do that being the leader of the attack here at Somerset on a Taunton wicket that is probably not going to be as spin friendly as over the last couple of years.
‘It will generally be better in first-class cricket now and it can only help me taking wickets on good pitches. Jamie felt he wanted more opportunities with the newer ball and to bat slightly higher up, because he was at nine or 10 for us.
‘It was a big decision for him and I hope it goes really well at Surrey, but it’s going to be weird when we play against each other. It’s sure to be competitive between us and I would expect a hostile few days!’
If Somerset can beat Essex, who pipped them to the title last year by drawing a rain-affected Championship decider at Taunton, they can finally break that red-ball duck in what has been a successful first-class substitute competition.
‘It’s not the same as the Championship, but it’s a big competition and one all 18 counties could have won,’ adds Overton. ‘It’s special playing at Lord’s and there is an extra incentive because we’re facing Essex again. We feel we’re one of the best two teams and would have been annoyed if we hadn’t got there.
‘Since they were promoted (in 2016), Essex have shown they’re among the best sides. So to have a repeat of last year shows what good teams we are.’
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