After some scintillating displays in the County Championship, Jamie Overton is in England’s squad for the third Test against New Zealand. Taha Hashim learns more about the Surrey quick’s recent success.
The numbers tell a straightforward story. After five County Championship matches this season, Jamie Overton has taken 21 wickets at 21.61 to help Surrey climb to the top of Division One. Then there’s his power with the bat to appreciate, too: 212 runs at 53, with a strike rate approaching 80. He’s in an England Test squad for the first time and deserves to be there.
But numbers are only a part of the story. To truly understand why Overton is where he is, you have to watch him. Then you’ll see a bowler with a bustling action who has used ferocious pace to bring himself wicket-taking joy and give others pain. “When Jamie is in full flight, he’s a very intense and powerful proposition because of the speeds that he can bowl, the lateral movement he can get, and he’s a big tall man,” Surrey interim head coach Gareth Batty tells Wisden.com. “It’s an imposing thing to watch and be a part of.”
Earlier this month, the 28-year-old was in a particularly destructive mood when facing his former club Somerset. Twin brother Craig was floored by a bouncer in the first innings and forced to leave the field. In Jamie’s next over he struck Josh Davey, who required a concussion replacement. Craig returned to bat but was subbed out the following morning after failing a reassessment for concussion. Jamie finished with five wickets in the match and was out in the middle when Jordan Clark hit the winning runs. It was a memorable return to Taunton.
Long considered a player of great potential – Overton was first called up to England’s ODI squad in 2013 as a teenager – he was threatening to drift until just a few months ago. Having left Somerset for Surrey during the 2020 season, Overton’s first full summer at The Oval was a difficult one. He took just six wickets in eight County Championship matches last year at an average of 75.66 and spent time on the sidelines with injury. “I was trying too hard,” Overton told The Times this April.
When former Pakistan all-rounder Azhar Mahmood began his role as Surrey interim assistant coach earlier this year, he found a bowler in need of technical tinkering; specifically, Overton’s run-up needed shortening. In the week before Surrey’s first County Championship match, against Warwickshire at Edgbaston, the pair went to work, taking a couple of days to figure out the new run. Overton didn’t play that opener, but by the time Hampshire arrived at The Oval in mid-April, he was primed and ready for action. He finished with eight wickets in the match, including his maiden five-wicket haul for the club.
“It seems to have been the last piece of the jigsaw to pull everything together,” Batty says when discussing the new and improved run-up. “It keeps his action more fluid and working to a target. He’s very comfortable, which is basically the be-all and end-all.”
His bumper caused damage against Hampshire, but the fuller delivery was the aspect to marvel at; Liam Dawson’s stumps were rattled with a gorgeous out-swinger. As Batty explains, Surrey have made it clear to Overton that he is much more than just a short-ball enforcer.
“A conversation we had at the start of the year was we didn’t want him to be used just as a battering ram,” Batty says. “Just because he bowls quickly, we don’t want him bowling with a short leg, with men out and just bowling lots of bouncers.
“Yes, he can bowl at 90 miles an hour. And yes, he’s very quick. But he’s also got a wonderful skillset. He’s able to pitch the ball up and move it laterally, which is something we’ve encouraged a huge amount this year.
“We’ve said: ‘You have a wonderful ability to bowl 90 miles an hour. We are not discouraging you from bowling 90 miles an hour at any point. But we are saying that, sometimes, because of your great skillset – being able to swing the ball, move the ball laterally, and you’re tall – actually, you don’t need to be at 100 per cent all the time’. His 80 per cent is quicker than most people’s 100 anyway. We don’t want him to be just used as somebody who bowls really fast and bangs it in halfway down and so on.”
But when the moment is right, Overton knows how to seize it. “If he needs to crank it up,” Batty says, “it’s there for everybody to see. Let’s make no mistake, he’s bowled some really, really fast spells and turned games for us this year.” His brother can attest to that.
Now Jamie joins Craig in the national set-up, and the former stands out in the current pack; with Mark Wood, Olly Stone and Jofra Archer all currently recovering from injuries, the McCullum-Stokes era has kicked off without an express quick.
While the revolution has begun swimmingly, there have been moments, particularly on a flat pitch at Trent Bridge, where England have missed that little bit of extra flavour. Jamie may well be an option to provide it with a process that has served him so well this summer: high pace, pitched up for swing, and a fearsome bumper always lurking close by. Nine years on from his first England call-up, it could be time for a debut.