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Craig Overton has been working on adding an extra yard of pace to his bowling during his preparations for England’s tour of New Zealand.
The Somerset all-rounder, who was this week called up for England’s one-day squad, made an immediate impression during the Ashes. He took six wickets in two Tests and top scored in England’s first innings at Adelaide amid a pace barrage from the Australian quicks.
He impressed with the way he adapted to international cricket and handled the pressure, bowling through the pain of a cracked rib at Perth, before the injury cruelly ruled him out of the final two Tests.
Back home in Taunton, he has now recovered and was preparing for the Test series in New Zealand when he received the call for the one-day side following injury to Liam Plunkett.
He admits he is looking to increase his pace having seen how the likes of Starc, Cummins and Hazelwood combined to dangerous effect in Australia. However, he is keen not to lose the control and accuracy that – along with the extra bounce he gets from his height – brought him 46 wickets at 22.39 last summer.
Overton told The Cricket Paper: “There were a few things that I took away from the Ashes experience, maybe add a fraction of pace, but also not going too far from what I’ve done well at home, what’s gone really well for me.
“So, it’s adding a few extra things, just the final touches really. There’s a few things I might change that may add a little bit of pace that might help me as a bowler, so that’s what we’ve been working on back at Taunton.”
Overton is also hoping the wickets will offer more assistance in New Zealand: “Hopefully the conditions will be slightly more favourable for bowlers there, there might be a little bit more in the wickets, and it will be good to challenge myself in a different country that I haven’t been to.”
Overton has become the leader of the Somerset attack over the last two years, something he credits with forcing himself into the reckoning with England.
“Over the last couple of years with the injuries that we’ve had, I’ve had to actively lead the attack. I’ve taken that as a role and I’m really happy with the way it’s gone.”
Overlooked for the opening Test in Brisbane, despite a promising start to the early tour games, Overton was called into the side at Adelaide.
Having played two previous day/night games, he knew what to expect from playing under lights and the effect it would have on the pink ball – but he also had to contend with the vocal Australian crowds and the intense Ashes atmosphere.
“You’re playing in front of 65,000 people, so that’s a lot more than what you’re used to, especially with that added media pressure behind it. Everything like that is just amped up a little bit so, there’s going to be more pressure and the intensity is going to go up.
“For me it was almost trying to make sure it was as normal a game as possible. Obviously, it’s going to be a special one, but you just try to keep doing the basics that got you there and don’t worry too much about the outcome and just make sure you’re enjoying it. I did that and obviously the rewards came along as well, so that was really pleasing.”
Steve Smith proved to be England’s nemesis throughout the series, but Overton picked up the prized wicket of the Australian captain at Adelaide – his first in Test cricket. After being accused by Smith of being slow, Overton took extra satisfaction in beating him for pace.
“I came back for my third spell when the lights had just taken effect. I’d bowled under lights before, so I know what I was trying to do with it and it just nipped back and took the inside edge and went onto the stumps. I just saw the orange flash of the bails and the stumps and off I went and I don’t really remember too much from there!”
Although his twin brother Jamie was busy with the England Pace Programme, Overton’s debut was a family affair. “Mum and Dad were there for the first three Tests, so it was nice that they saw my debut and saw me again in Perth. It was a special moment that we could share together.”
Without doubt, the attack he encountered while scoring an unbeaten 41 at Adelaide ranks as the most ferocious spell of bowling he has ever faced: “They’re world-class bowlers, so we knew as tail enders that we were going to get some short stuff. I was expecting it, so it was just trying to cope with it and trying to score runs off it as well. I felt like I played it alright, but there was still a little bit of work to do.
“Obviously, it’s going to be a challenge, but that’s why you play international cricket.
“Naturally it was disappointing to miss out at Melbourne. Everyone wants to play in an Ashes Test on Boxing Day, it’s a special thing and to even be there was really nice and experience the atmosphere. It would have been even more special to have played, but injuries happen in sport and I just dealt with it by saying: ‘right, make sure I come back here in four years’ time’. It’s all healed now and I’m back bowling, so it’s all fully ready for New Zealand.
“The reaction back home has been really nice. That’s the way we are down here, everyone’s really supportive of what I’ve done.”
Overton, who will turn 24 at the end of the New Zealand tour, thinks the Somerset squad has a lot of potential to do well this summer:
“There’s a core of younger players who have all played 40-50 games now. So, we might still be young, but we’ve actually played a lot of first-class cricket, so hopefully with the experience we’ve got with Hildy, Tres, Steve Davies, Tregs, etc, that we can add onto that, we can have a good year.”
He will also be joining forces with one of his Ashes opponents, Cameron Bancroft, who has signed for Somerset: “He’s got a lot of experience for Australia and hopefully he can bring that over and he does really well for us.”
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