Mark Butcher discusses whether Mark Wood could offer more to England than Craig Overton in the third Ashes Test at the WACA. (1:32)
Craig Overton admitted he had never experienced a short-ball barrage like it but, despite the match result and a huge bruise, insisted his Test debut had been “good fun.”
Amid the rubble of another disappointing England performance, Overton enjoyed an impressive debut. As well as claiming four wickets – including that of Steven Smith – Overton top-scored in England’s first-innings with a gutsy 41 not out and took a fine, diving catch at fine-leg. It was a display that impressed the England management and left Trevor Bayliss purring about “the fire in the belly” of his new recruit.
While Overton was picked primarily as a seamer, it was arguably his batting that impressed most. Despite having been dismissed for a duck every time he batted in the warm-up games, Overton withstood a sustained spell of short-pitched bowling as well as anyone in England’s first innings and showed both courage and technique in adding 66 runs for the eighth wicket with Chris Woakes.
It was a contribution that might well have convinced Smith not to enforce the follow-on and could have helped drag England back into the match. And it contrasted with the contribution made by Jake Ball, who was dismissed by short balls in both innings of the first Test and was the man replaced by Overton for the second Test.
“I’ve probably not been peppered like that in first-class cricket before,” Overton said. “You might come up against one fast bowler in each side in a county game, but to have three like that is tough work.
“But you have to expect that in Australia. I knew what I was getting into going out to bat in the middle. You could tell from the field; especially when Pat Cummins came around the wicket at me. I was pretty much waiting for it.
“I think you have to enjoy it. It was good fun and I felt like I played it pretty well.”
The one time he did not play it well cost him. Ducking into a good-length delivery from Cummins in the second innings, Overton saw the ball evade his chest-guard and take him on the rib cage. While he admits the blow remains “a bit sore and a bit bruised” he does not seem overly concerned that it could threaten his involvement in the third Test in Perth.
“He [Cummins] didn’t say anything,” Overton said. “If you are hit in the chest you know it’s not going to kill you. It might give you a broken bone, but it’s not life threatening. It’s a bit different when you get hit on the head. That’s when you become worried.
“Most of the Australia team are good lads and came up to make sure I was all right after I was hit. On the pitch they like to create a bit of a bubble and say a few words. But off the pitch they seem like pretty good lads.
“I haven’t had a scan or anything. We think it’s just bruising. We are not too worried.”
“It’ll take more than that to slow him down,” Bayliss said with obvious admiration. “He’s a big fella. He’s not complaining.”
While Bayliss and co. clearly like Overton’s spirit, they would also dearly love him to have an extra yard of pace. But while he will never be an outright quick bowler (unlike his twin brother, Jamie, who is recovering well from a stress fracture and is expected to bowl at the England players in the nets ahead of the Melbourne Test), they are hopeful he can sustain his pace for longer as he adjusts to the workloads required in Test cricket. He bowled 33 overs in the first innings in Adelaide – more than he had ever bowled in a first-class innings – and admits he will have “to get used to” such stints.
“It is not common to field for 150 overs in first-class cricket back home,” Overton said. “And to bowl that amount of overs was a challenge. But it’s one I have to get used to.
“I know I’m not the quickest – I am the first to admit that – so for me it’s all about control and little variations. The bad balls are going to be put away. It’s all about doing the basics right.”
He will, at least, have a break this weekend. With only Moeen Ali, who has been out of sorts with the ball in the series so far, of the Test XI required to play in the two-day warm-up match in Richardson Park, Overton and the rest will be encouraged to take a complete break from the game. To that end, the midnight curfew – recently introduced as a result of Butt-gate – will be relaxed for a night or two.
Source: ESPN Crickinfo