Warwickshire 93 for 3 v Somerset
If you were to judge by the statistics, Jamie Overton shouldn’t enter into the thoughts of the England selectors. He went into this game averaging 37.19 for his first-class wickets, after all. Will Gidman, by comparison, has taken his first-class wickets at an average of 23.28.
But who is more likely to win England an Ashes Test? And there are moments, just moments, when everything clicks together and Overton looks a terrific prospect. Blessed with height and pace, he also has the ability to gain movement. Put that together and you have a bowler who can overcome flat surfaces and good line-ups; the sort of bowler who might have been made for Australian surfaces.
He enjoyed such a moment on the first day of this Championship match at Taunton. His five-over spell accounted for both Warwickshire openers and contained a number of all but unplayable deliveries that pitched on off and straightened to beat the bat of Jonathan Trott.
While it’s true that Warwickshire’s openers – Ian Westwood and Andy Umeed – are not quite up the standard of those England will face in Australia, the balls that dismissed them were reward for fine bowling. Westwood, hit on the body earlier in the over as he attempted to pull one that was on him quicker than he anticipated, played on as he attempted to force one on off stump that may have bounced a little more than he expected, before Umeed was yorked – and perhaps beaten for pace – by one that may have left the batsman just a little in the air.
The only boundaries he conceded – two of them – came off the edge of the bat: the first when Trott played one down and past the slips and the second when Ian Bell cut over the cordon. While there were still a couple of leg stump deliveries that, another day, might have been punished, it was a spell – albeit a relatively short one – that hinted at improving consistency.
Somerset would, no doubt, have wanted Overton to bowl a bit more at Trott and Bell when they came to the crease. But a five-over spell is probably plenty for a bowler of such pace and, in a side containing only three seamers (and Peter Trego has yet to take a Championship wicket this season), they wouldn’t have wanted to exhaust him too early in the game.
His brother, Craig, soon accounted for Bell, anyway. A demanding spell, not as quick as Jamie but perhaps more consistent, brought an attempted back-foot force that flew high to second slip where Marcus Trescothick plucked down a sharp catch.
But it was, not for the first time, Jamie who had caught the eye. And, with James Anderson injured again – and those injuries are starting to come with ominous frequency – Overton’s performance will not have gone unnoticed by the selectors.
He impressed Trevor Bayliss, the England coach, last year. Bayliss was at Edgbaston last May when Overton utilised a slightly uneven surface – it was rated poor by the umpires – to such an extent that there was talk of the match being abandoned for a while.
Presented by an England bowler offering the skills that Australia have in abundance – pace, height and aggression – Bayliss was said to be much taken with what he saw and, had Overton not suffered a stress fracture, he might have pushed for further recognition already. These are early days and slim pickings on which to judge – rain washed out most of the first day here – but Jamie Overton’s attributes are not common and he certainly has the potential to go a long way in the game.
“That has to be one of the best spells that I have bowled since I came back from injury,” Overton said afterwards. “I want to bowl in short, sharp spells and as long as I don’t go for 10 an over, I’m pretty happy. Today I think I went for less than four an over so I was pleased with that.
“I’ve worked hard on my control and today I think I made the batsmen have to play me. I’m using my bouncer sensibly now – and batsmen now know that I have got one to bowl – so it’s a very handy weapon to have.”
While Somerset will have been delighted with his performance, they might have been a little concerned at the lack of spin. Despite playing this match on a surface used in a couple of limited-overs games, there was little if any assistance for Jack Leach (who was presented his count cap by former Somerset and England spinner Vic Marks during the day) and Dominic Bess. Bess dismissed Bell and Trott in successive deliveries on Championship debut last year but here was taken for three boundaries – two cover drives and a pull – from Trott as he struggled to find the appropriate length.
It’s an important game for both sides. Currently at the foot of the table – Somerset have played one game fewer – it may well prove to have a bearing on the relegation situation at the end of the season. Warwickshire, anticipating a spinning surface, awarded a Championship debut to left-arm spinner Sunny Singh and a first-class debut to seamer Grant Thornton, who is only on a three-month contract with the club but who impressed in white ball cricket. Chris Wright is recovering from injury.
Sam Hain and Umeed were also recalled with William Porterfield on international duty and Ateeq Javid dropped. Warwickshire also announced they have signed a 17-year-old seamer, Henry Brookes, on a three-season deal.
While nobody could argue with the early decision to abandon play – there has been torrential rain and hail in Taunton – there was an odd disruption earlier in the day. It transpires that there is an ECB directive that strongly advises umpires to ensure the playing area is vacated by everyone – including the groundstaff – should there be any thunder and lightning in the vicinity.
So, despite sunshine, play was delayed in early afternoon as the directive suggests that, once the gap between thunder and lightning becomes more frequent than 40 seconds, the playing surface should be cleared for a minimum of 30 minutes. The fact that the stands at Taunton were well populated by bemused spectators who are, presumably, equally at risk of lightning strikes, appears to have escaped the attention of which ever official came up with the guidelines.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.