Overton developing head of steam
Lancashire 203 (Davies 62, Overton 3-37, Trego 3-37, Dockrell 3-44) and 95 for 3 (Trego 3-25) drew with Somerset 420 (Petersen 155, Compton 91, Trescothick 55, Kerrigan 3-94)
Policemen seem younger, centre three-quarters are bulking up and seam bowlers are getting taller. Craig Overton has no particular interest in the first two statements but at 6ft 6ins he is an excellent illustration of the truth of the third. Except that Overton is rather more than a seamer.
In the middle of a week in which media interest, nay, frenzy has been focused on one 36-year-old all-rounder, it may be rather more valuable to consider the burgeoning career of a cricketer 16 years Andrew Flintoff's junior who has already played one-day cricket for England Lions and whose development this summer will be worth watching.
Overton's first-class season is developing an impressive head of steam. A five-wicket haul and an unbeaten 45 in the defeat of Durham at Taunton is the highlight but he followed that with three Warwickshire wickets in the rain-ruined game at Edgbaston and three more Lancashire scalps in the draw at Old Trafford.
As the fourth day's intermittent showers merged into what umpire Steve Garratt dubbed "proper Manchester rain", thus causing the abandonment of play in early afternoon, Overton could find comfort in thoughts of the progress he's made since he suffered a stress fracture of the back last year.
"I was diagnosed at the end of April, had six or seven weeks off and then built it back up slowly from there," he said. "I could have bowled at the end of last summer but we didn't see much point in doing that, so I just concentrated on being ready for this season. In fact I didn't start bowling till November."
Overton also spent the winter on the ECB's Potential Emerging Players' Programme which he already views as being vital for the development of his career. "My core wasn't strong enough for my back and that was why I got the stress fracture," he said. "We did a lot of training and the result was that both my core and back are stronger now."
The PEPP also brought Overton into contact with Glen Chapple, who was one of the coaches on the programme and a cricketer whose approach he clearly admires. "Glen came with us to South Africa at the end of the winter and he bowled at me a couple of times," he said. "It's always nice to see what he does as a bowler and pick his brains. At the end of his career he's doing more work than most other people. He's a hard-working guy and he's got high standards, which I do, too, so it was very good to train with him."
A strong work ethic is something Craig Overton shares with his twin brother, Jamie. The pair learned much of their cricket at Instow, the glorious and spectacular home of North Devon CC, where the wind whipping in off the sea makes the Fremantle Doctor feel like a light zephyr.
"It's always fun to play for North Devon, but Jamie got the Sea End so I was generally bowling into the wind," he said. "But I found that helps your discipline because if I could keep it tight we generally did alright. North Devon have over 60 friendlies each season, so growing up I was down at the ground pretty much every afternoon. But county matches came first and if we had a midweek game before one of those, I might not do as much in it."
County also comes first for Overton at the moment. Having joined Somerset's academy at 16, he made his first-class debut in 2012 and is gradually establishing himself in the first team under the wise, tough, considerate leadership of Marcus Trescothick. He's just played against some of the young players who brought the County Championship back to Old Trafford for the first time in 77 years and would just love to help Somerset win a first title in their history.
If teams in the Divison One remain as evenly-balanced as they are in early June, this disarming Devonian and his twin may achieve that goal, thus delighting both partisans within the West Country and neutrals far beyond its unmarked borders.