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'Mature' Overton in frame for Test debut

Craig Overton has described a ban handed to him for using abusive language as "the turning point" of his career.

Overton has emerged as a genuine contender for a place in England's team for the first Ashes Test at Brisbane in three-weeks' time. But he admits the wake-up call of the ban - the result of an incident in a game in September 2015 - forced him to reflect on his behaviour and led to his maturing both on and off the pitch.

Overton was accused by one of the umpires, Alex Wharf, of having told the Sussex batsman Ashar Zaidi to "go back to your own f***ing country". While Zaidi, Pakistan-born but a British citizen, did not hear the comments and Overton denied any memory of having made them, he did admit his behaviour had become unnecessarily cantankerous. He was subsequently banned for two games for using abusive rather than racist language and later admitted the verdict was "fair enough, really".

As a result of the incident, Somerset arranged for Overton to see a psychotherapist. And, as a result of those sessions with Abbie Kench, Overton has emerged as a far more mature cricketer who, aged 23, has developed into Somerset's attack leader. Only two England-qualified bowlers (Jamie Porter and Ben Coad) claimed more Division One wickets in 2017 - he took 46 at a cost of 22.39 apiece - and where once a promising spell might be spoiled by a frustrated barrage of short-balls and abuse, he now has the discipline to retain his control and his composure.

"That's not how you behave on a cricket field," Overton admitted, reflecting on the Zaidi incident. "You can't act like that. It was not just that incident. The whole summer there were a few instances.

"I've calmed down the last couple of years and I think what happened has made me realise you can't go on acting like that. I don't want to lose the edge. It's just finding the right balance and not going too far. That incident matured me a little bit which I'm really happy with and I've moved on from that. It was massively a turning point."

So much of a turning point, that Overton has a good chance of forcing his way into the Test team over the next few days. While he isn't the quickest - his natural pace would probably be in the mid to low 80s mph - he has a good range of skills, gains sharp bounce from his height and has the ability to deliver a sharper spell when required. Crucially, despite failing to make a half-century in the 2017 season, he also offers more with the bat than Jake Ball - his rival for the fourth seamer's spot - and he has developed into a decent slip catcher off the spin bowlers at Somerset. With Ben Stokes absent, that remains another hole for England to fill.

"I try and work on my slip catching as much as possible," Overton said. "Someone has got to field there. I'll put my hand up if I have to.

"My batting is one thing that maybe I see where I have an edge over the others. Growing up, I always wanted to be an allrounder. I've still got that skill with the bat so I'll make sure I use the coaches here to get the most out of my batting and score a few runs if I play."

But for injury to his twin, Jamie, it is entirely possible both brothers could have made the tour. Jamie is, by some distance, the quicker of the two and, in the brief moments he was fully fit during the 2017 season, looked as good a prospect as any fast bowler in England. As it is, though, his role on this tour could well be limited to that of net bowler.

"Jamie is here for Christmas," Overton said. "He says he might bowl at us a little bit. He's getting back to full fitness now which is really nice.

"We were very competitive growing up. But I think that's very normal for twin brothers. They want to get the best out of each other. He's happy for me. We work pretty well together. He's been through a pretty tough few years and he's really happy with the way I've gone. Hopefully he'll be following in my footsteps."