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Analysis

Jamie Overton earns the right to take Test speedster role on

In this age of positivity, more will be expected of new faces than ever before

Jamie Overton celebrates his maiden Test wicket, England vs New Zealand, 3rd Test, Headingley, 1st day, June 23, 2022

Jamie Overton celebrates his maiden Test wicket  •  Getty Images

Short, high and wide enough for Will Young to relinquish the pretence of leaving and crane his neck around to watch Ben Foakes step on Joe Root's toes at first slip to take the ball.
As far as first deliveries in Test cricket go, it was one of the nervier from Jamie Overton. His approach looked a little uncertain: arguably the biggest tell of debut jitters considering he and Surrey bowling coach Azhar Mahmood have worked together so diligently to refine it. Even the fact he'd shaved the beard he was sporting this week was a sign of some anxiety. Test cricket, for all its unwritten rules, has been pretty nonplussed when it comes to facial hair. They even let you in with trainers, Jamie. But he was taking no chances on his first day.
No sooner had the nine-over-old Dukes ball slapped into Foakes' black keeping gloves, an "oooooo" went around Headingley. To be fair, the length and the speed (88 mph) was worthy of the reaction. But it felt a little staged, as if a bright red neon sign had gone off above this live studio audience urging them to "APPLAUD", "CHEER" and "GASP AT THE SPEED OF JAMIE O". And those in the stands were happy to oblige. Ben Stokes said on Wednesday he wanted his cricketers to approach this fixture like they are in the entertainment industry to improve that connection with the fans. This was just the fans playing along, too, as they revved themselves up for one who had been billed as the latest thoroughbred quick on the block.
By the end of Overton's first over, the fervour had started to wane. Another short ball - just as wide as the first but slower - was cuffed over the fielders on the off side and away for four. By the time he had finished his first spell of five overs, beyond a couple of deliveries that caused misjudgements from Devon Conway, the crowd had already returned to their conversation. If the best thing for a wicketkeeper is to go unnoticed, then surely the worst for a quick is to be ignored.
Three balls into his second spell, that movement into Conway finally counted for something as the left-hander skewed a full delivery into his stumps, jolting into the shot as if surprised by the speed of it. Just like that, as Overton wheeled away with one arm in the air like he'd just thumped one in at the Gallowgate End, he was back in their consciousness.
It was an altogether more fruitful passage: figures of one for nine in those six overs (compared to one for 17 in those first five) along with greater control. He'd found a holding pattern on a good length, where 20 of those 36 deliveries pitched. In among them were six bumpers and five full balls, one of which was a yorker.
By stumps, he was somewhere in between, albeit closer to where he would have wanted to finish. Trusted enough for a five-over spell to spill over into having first go with the new ball with Stuart Broad raring to go, but taken off immediately after the 81st over after he served up a full toss that raced for four harsh byes against Foakes' name. A short-ball field was installed but hardly used as Daryl Mitchell left well and hooked better to make it through to stumps unbeaten on 78. All in all, one for 41 after 16 overs is a respectable day's work in this world, especially your first.
No doubt there will be some who will feel underwhelmed by Overton's debut because of the expectation around his inclusion. He was dubbed as being the point of difference Mark Wood, Jofra Archer and Olly Stone have been, each well into the nineties, while Overton managed just one delivery at 90mph. And you are always going to be on notice when you are drafted in to replace James Anderson.
There is also the expectation that comes with being a debutant in this new era. Positivity of play extends to positivity of selection. Taking the exciting option. And as much as this team under Stokes is being asked to express themselves free from pressure, the flip side is more will be expected of new faces than ever before.
Ironically, a younger Jamie Overton might have made a greater impression on those who came through the gates. Wilder, chippier and he would certainly have called Mitchell a few names. Faster? Perhaps. Over the last few years, he has spoken of reeling himself in, more for physical rather than disciplinary reasons.
Having struggled with injuries, particularly in his back - a problem area for all fast bowlers as England's injury list proves - he opted for a more sensible approach. To, in essence, do as he has done today: operate in the mid-eighties and crank it up every so often.
"The batters are just higher quality, got to be on the ball the whole time," Overton told Sky Sports after play. "Bowl a bad ball and they'll hit it for four. Trying to make sure you are tighter with your lines and lengths. I felt I had a good day."
Overton might not be as thrill-a-ball as those who occupied the "designated speedster" role before him. But he has earned the right to take it on, and after a fine if unspectacular start, will be looking to earn that gig for the rest of the summer by doing it his own way.

Vithushan Ehantharajah is a sportswriter for ESPNcricinfo