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George Dobell at Taunton
June 9, 2014
Sussex 214 (Joyce 103) and 26 for 0 trail Somerset 289 (Overton 86, Kieswetter 65, Magoffin 6-60) by 49 runs
It was not, perhaps, quite as dramatic as the innings that brought Ian Botham to wider attention, but Taunton regulars will know they are witnessing the start of something quite special with the development of the Overton twins.
It was way back on June 12 1974 - almost exactly 40 years ago - that Botham, then an 18-year-old who was building a reputation as a swing bowler, came in at No. 9 and, after losing a handful of teeth to an Andy Roberts bouncer, thrashed the Hampshire bowling around this charming little ground to win Somerset a match that had appeared lost. A star had been born.
It would be stretching a point to suggest that either Overton will achieve the success of Botham, but it does seem fair to suggest that Somerset (or Devon) have not produced an allrounder of such potential as Craig since the days of Botham and Vic Marks. Just a couple of weeks after Jamie Overton, a bowler of rare pace, impressed with a half-century against Warwickshire, it was the turn of his twin brother to dominate.
On the first day of this match, Craig Overton impressed with the ball. Content to let his natural attributes - his height, his strength and a pleasing, fluid action - work for him, he does not try to bowl too fast and does not attempt too much variation. He gains movement in the air and off the pitch, though, and for a man of his age, bowls very few poor balls. It looks as if he has plenty of pace in reserve, too. All the ingredients are there.
On the second day, it was his batting that impressed. With Somerset having subsided to 125 for 7, they were facing the prospect of conceding a first innings lead. But Overton, like Botham coming in at No. 9, helped the impressive Craig Meschede add 81 for the eighth wicket before adding 77 for the ninth with Alfonso Thomas as Somerset finished with a first-innings lead of 75.
Hitting the ball cleanly, Overton took advantage of the softening ball and support bowlers to reach a career-best score. If it was the thumping drives and slog-sweeps that stood out, it was the straight bat and long reach that boded best for his future. He is not, with bat or ball, a complicated cricketer, but he is already a good one and he has the potential to enjoy a long and successful career. His aim, he says, is to develop into "a batsman who bowls" and he lists Andrew Flintoff as a key role model. He gave one chance, on 45, when Ed Joyce failed to cling on to a miscued pull.
Slowing after his half-century and with men out on the boundary, Overton eventually became a victim of his own lack of patience. After heaving Rory Hamilton-Brown to deep mid-on with a maiden century within his reach, his disappointment was clear to see as he left the pitch with head in his hands. "I should have hit it out of the ground," he said. "And I'll back myself to do that next time."
The only other man to reach 40 in the Somerset innings was Craig Kieswetter. Batting with more fluency than anyone in the match to date, Kieswetter feasted on the back-up bowlers, Luke Wright and Will Beer in particular, in a counter-attacking innings. Playing further forward than most, he has been the one man in the game to drive with assurance and will feel he largely made amends for the drop on the first day that allowed Joyce a life before he had scored.
That Somerset were able to recover was not solely due to their lower-order defiance, though. It also speaks volumes for the Sussex support bowling which, in the absence of Chris Jordan and, to a lesser extent, Jon Lewis, appears inadequate. Beer was unable to sustain a good enough length and was punished severely, while Wright also bowled too short. Whatever his faults, Monty Panesar has proved hard to replace.
Indeed, such was Sussex's predicament that eight men were pressed into service as bowlers, with Luke Wells sustaining a side strain that forced him from the field and rendered him unable to bat in the evening. Jimmy Anyon did a decent job deputising as opener while, with the ball, Hamilton-Brown finished with career-best figures.
Somerset's revival was cruel fortune for Steve Magoffin who took the first six wickets to fall and at one stage had figures of 5 for 13. Maintaining a perfect, nagging line and length, he gained enough seam movement to trouble all the batsmen and defeated Nick Compton, who Magoffin suggested had batted as well against him as anyone over the last couple of years, with a beauty that demanded a shot but left him. James Hildreth, stuck in his crease, was beaten by a rare inswinger and Marcus Trescothick, expecting one angled across him, bowled by one that went straight. It was bowling of the highest class and saw Magoffin past 400 first-class wickets.
His record against Somerset is absurdly good. In 2013 he claimed 20 wickets in two first-class matches against them while conceding only 132 runs. In all, in five-and-a-half matches, he has claimed 36 first-class wickets at an average of just 11.36.
"I'm bowling better than ever," he said. "Maybe in the past I was distracted by pushing for higher honours but, since I was released by Western Australia a few years ago, first with Queensland and now with Sussex, I'm more relaxed and bowling better. To come back from that - and I didn't have a job to go to - to this is very satisfying."
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: George Dobell
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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