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Tom Banton kickstarts globetrotting winter with 80 off 28 balls

England starlet sticks to "what I'm good at" in competition's fastest half-century

Barny Read in Abu Dhabi
Tom Banton launches one into the night sky  •  Abu Dhabi T10

Tom Banton launches one into the night sky  •  Abu Dhabi T10

In the coming years, it will likely be difficult to recall a time when Tom Banton was not lighting up franchise leagues the world over; lapping, scooping, reversing, driving and hooking bowlers to the end of their wits.
The 2019 Vitality Blast, in which he was the second-highest run-scorer (549), proved Banton's breakout tournament and promised a future filled with both runs and riches. Barely a game went by without drool-inducing highlight reels of Banton and Somerset opening partner Babar Azam taking apart opposition attacks.
It earned him an eight-game deal in Australia's Big Bash League and England honours against New Zealand, in what feels like the start of a special career for the 21-year-old. But it is here, at the Abu Dhabi T10, that Banton's pending globe-trot has begun and if his performances so far are anything to go by, it will indeed be the start of something special.
Banton, who wants to eventually play all three formats for England, already had an unbeaten 53 from 28 balls in the win over Northern Warriors to his name before a stunning broadcast of his 360 degree range in victory over Karnataka Tuskers. The Qalandars opener bludgeoned a man-of-the-match 80 from only 28 balls, an innings that included nine fours and six sixes to keep his side in the competition.
Having departed with 13 balls remaining in the innings, Banton at one stage was well set to become the first centurion in the tournament's history having returned to playing his natural game, rather than being caught up in "muscling" balls out the ground.
"That's probably where I've struggled here," Banton told ESPNcricinfo the day prior to registering the fifth highest score in Abu Dhabi T10 history. "I've seen other players smacking it 100 metres and I've kind of forgot what I'm good at and that's probably not muscling it out of the ground because that's probably not an area of strength for me so [I need to] just remember what I'm good at and what got me here."
He did just that on Thursday night in a rollocking innings reminiscent of those that have turned Banton into a potential trump card for England going into back-to-back ICC T20 World Cups over the next two years.
And Banton admits his catapulting success this summer, including the three T20I outings in England's series win over the Black Caps at the start of November, makes for a "weird" year. Things could have been so different for Banton, who returned to Taunton ahead of the new season following a winter with South Perth in Australia that was far from enjoyable from a cricketing perspective.
"At the beginning of the year, I'd never have thought this would've happened," Banton explained. "I would've been happy to play a few first team games, got a few scores but I think once you get on a roll in cricket you kind of can't stop really. I haven't looked back since." Quite.
Banton's quick hands, mastery of the reverse and background in hockey draw parallels to Jos Buttler, AB de Villiers and Eoin Morgan in terms of their shared transition of stick skills as well as their ability to find the boundary all round the park.
And Banton's partnership with Babar at the top of the Somerset order has led to some highlight reel. Not only that, it seemingly spurred Lahore Qalandars COO Sameen Rana, who is also CEO of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) franchise's T10 offshoot Qalandars, to draft the Englishman.
"Sameena, our owner for the Qalandars team, told me that he was getting messages galore before this saying to pick me," said Banton, who describes Babar as "the best player I've ever seen."
"Obviously they love cricket over there so it's obviously great to have a lot of people rooting for you to do well so it's nice to see."