Craig Overton says he is quicker and more skilful as he targets England Test comeback vs New Zealand

Ed Smith is no longer England’s national selector but something he said could still be of huge benefit to them this summer.

Towards the end of 2019, Somerset seamer Craig Overton asked Smith what he needed to do to become a more regular member of the England Test team.

What Smith told him – the gist being to add a yard of pace without sacrificing his consistency – was taken on board by Overton and his form with the ball since has been startling.

  • Craig Overton recalled to England Test squad
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He picked up 11 wickets in total as England Lions went unbeaten in Australia in the 2019-20 winter, including six scalps in the unofficial Test win over Australia A at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Then, after a stint in the England bubble last summer, he picked up 30 wickets in six games for Somerset in the Bob Willis Trophy – the most by an Englishman – at an average of 13.43.

This season in the LV= Insurance County Championship, he has claimed 36 in six games – the most by any bowler – at an average of 12.86.

As Overton looks to add to his four Test caps, the last of which came against Australia at Emirates Old Trafford in September 2019, the 27-year-old feels quicker and slicker.

England squad for New Zealand Test series

Joe Root (captain), James Anderson, James Bracey, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Zak Crawley, Ben Foakes, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Craig Overton, Ollie Pope, Ollie Robinson, Dom Sibley, Olly Stone, Mark Wood

“When I spoke to Ed Smith, he gave me a few ideas to work on,” Overton told Sky Sports, ahead of linking up with the England party in London on Friday before the first Test starts at Lord’s on June 2.

“I went away and tried to put them into practice, including in the bubble last summer, learning from two of England’s greatest-ever bowlers, James Anderson and Stuart Broad.

“I carried that form into the games last year and then have carried it into this year as well. Hopefully I can continue that with England if I get selected.

“You can get carried away with pace sometimes because you obviously still need that control as well. Batters can play 90mph pace pretty easily if that’s all you have.

“You need to be able to move the ball and I think I have added more skill to what I had before as well as that nip.

“Pace-wise, I lengthened my run-up to allow me to get more momentum into the crease and theoretically carry more speed. My cleaner action then allows me to swing the ball, so it’s been a twofold thing really.”

Overton has also played a role with the bat from the No 7 and No 8 spots for Somerset, striking 54 against Gloucestershire and 74 against Hampshire this term, following scores of 66 and 45 not out in last year’s Bob Willis Trophy final defeat to Essex at Lord’s.

As England ponder how to balance their side in the absence of star all-rounder Ben Stokes, who is recovering from a fractured finger, Overton says he would have no qualms batting at No 7 if the team want to go in with five bowlers.

“That’s what I have done for Somerset and I want to contribute with the bat.

“Growing up, I was always a batter who bowled so I have been trying to make sure that I get more opportunities to bat and that I make the most of them.

“I haven’t scored those big runs yet. I have chipped in consistently, which is what you want to do, but I need to keep working on getting those big runs.”

Should Overton get the nod against New Zealand, he will be aiming to improve on a Test ledger that reads played four, lost four.

Overton has certainly offered glimpses of his talent in his Test career to date, taking four wickets on debut in the 2017 Ashes clash in Adelaide, including making Steve Smith his first scalp in the format.

Later that winter, his unbeaten 33 in Auckland was by far and away England’s best individual score as they were rolled for just 58 in a pink-ball game against New Zealand.

Then, a battling innings against Australia in 2019 looked like it might lead to England securing a draw and keeping the Ashes alive, before he was last man out, to Josh Hazlewood, for 21 from 105 balls.

So, there have been cameos, but Overton now feels he can make a more consistent mark.

I have been given the new ball at Somerset and tried to lead from the front, but I have always been the man who tries to make something happen in a game. When you have the chance to bowl with the new ball that can be slightly easier than if you are first or second change.

Craig Overton

“I have only played four games and in one of them we were bowled out for 58 and another of them (against Australia in Perth) I got injured halfway through and broke a rib.

“The last one we tried to scrape through with a draw and the first one was a debut game, when perhaps you don’t perform to what you can with the expectation and build-up that follows you.

“I have that experience now so if I do get another chance, I will be less overawed by the situation.

“It is tough to sit out and watch but you understand Jimmy and Broady are two of the best bowlers we have ever had so it is going to be hard to get in ahead of them.

“You then know England will probably want to balance things out with a bowler who bowls 90mph and I know I probably will never be that.

“I have understood why the selectors have gone the way they have. That’s sport at the end of the day – you are not going to be able to play every game.

“It’s all been about going away and working on my game as much as possible and being ready if I get the chance.”

Watch the first Test between New Zealand and England live on Sky Sports Cricket from 10am on Wednesday, June 2.

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