By Bharath Ramaraj
The defending champions of County Championship, Warwickshire and perennial bridesmaids, Somerset are involved in a titanic ultra-marathon clash at the Taunton cricket ground.
With 11 overs to go for the end of final day’s play, a 19-year-old quick with boyish enthusiasm and a volcanic zest in his eyes called Jamie Overton thunders into the crease from around the wicket to bowl at the tail-ender — Oliver Hannon-Dalby. He even produces the edge of Hannon-Dalby’s bat, only for the umpire to inexplicably turn down the vociferous appeal. In-fact, the young warrior’s rip-roaring appeal reverberates in the stunningly beautiful Taunton cricket ground.
The match between Warwickshire and Somerset played from April 25-28, 2013, ended in a nerve-wracking draw. Warwickshire escaped by the skin of their teeth with their tenth-wicket pair of Rikki Clarke and Hannon Dalby taking them to safety.
In the pulsating encounter played between two heavyweights of County cricket, the towering giant from Somerset, Overton, bowling with a carefree attitude shone like a beacon. With a bustling run-up and by propelling the ball at a good pace, he swung the new as well as the old ball.
Overton was born on April 10, 1994, in Barnstaple, Devon. He came through the ranks by playing for Devon Under-13s, Devon Under-14s, Devon Under-15s, Devon Under-17s, Somerset second XI, England Under-19s, Somerset County team and recently for England A too. He has been a regular member of North Devon CC side playing in the Devon Premier league for many years now.
Interestingly, Overton has a twin brother Craig who too has played for England Under-19 team and Somerset, as an all-rounder. As they are identical twins, even Somerset’s cricket cognoscenti struggle to differentiate between the two.
It was in 2012 when Jamie Overton was given a chance to showcase his talents to the rest of the cricketing world in the Under-19 World Cup held in Australia. Overton didn’t exactly set the cricketing world on fire by taking three wickets in as many games. But it was his ability to swing the new ball at blistering pace that caught the eye, especially during England Under-19s pool match against Australia Under-19s. He even bowled a few deliveries at around the 90-mph mark.
For reasons best known only to England’s Under-19 captain, Adam Ball, Overton was given just five overs to bowl in their crucial Quarter-Final encounter against South Africa’s Under-19 side. No wonder, England paid dearly for shielding their attacking bowler against South Africa under-19s, as they crashed to a heavy defeat.
Since the Under-19 World Cup, Jamie Overton has gone onto impress one-and-all in the County circuit. This season, Overton even took his first five wicket-haul against Middlesex in the first division of County Championship.
To throw in a word of caution, Overton is still a work-in-progress. He certainly needs to eradicate his troublesome no-ball problems. His figures in domestic cricket especially, his First-Class average of 34.23 tells us that the English media shouldn’t burden the young shoulders of Overton with burgeoning weight of expectations. One has to consider though that Overton largely bowls on arguably one of the flattest decks in County cricket — Taunton.
It is crystal clear that England’s selectors are looking to fast-track the precociously talented pacer into the national set-up, as he has been picked to play One-Day matches against both Ireland and Australia, respectively.
Somerset’s coach, Dave Nosworthy on Overton’s fledgling cricketing career, “I wouldn’t say it was a surprise that Jamie was called up, because it has been mooted and there have been a few discussions going on. But it is quite early for him.
“That said I have seen it before with young fast bowlers with massive potential being fast-tracked to the top level and given that sort of exposure early on.
“I remember another international team doing the same thing with a young seam bowler from my Titans team — a guy called Dale Steyn, who is now one of the best bowlers in the world.”
It would be interesting to see how Overton copes up while bowling to glittering stars like David Warner, Shane Watson, Michael Clarke and the ever-consistent — George Bailey. Even if Overton grapples while bowling to Warner and Watson, playing for the national team in itself should be an unforgettable experience for him.
There is no doubt that England’s selectors look at him with a long-term vision of Overton leading the pace attack, in the years to come. Only time will tell, whether the upcoming One-Day series against Australia will act as a springboard for the boyishly enthusiastic and unbridled tearaway quick, Overton to ascend to heavenly heights with a streak of menace in the world of cricket.
(Bharath Ramaraj, an MBA in marketing, eats, drinks and sleeps cricket. He has played at school and college-level, and now channelises his passion for the game by writing about it)