Congratulations to youngster Craig Overton who is The Incider’s player of the month for June in association with Somerset County Sports. The 20 year-old, who was born in Barnstaple in North Devon, gained 44% of the votes from The Incider readers beating more established team-mates Craig Kieswetter (24%), Alfonso Thomas (24%) and Peter Trego (7%) in the voting.
Having lost the majority of his 2013 season to injury, and having to watch his twin brother Jamie rise to prominence and critical acclaim, young Craig’s preseason talk was modest – to enjoy an injury free season and play some first team games. Instead he has forced his way into the team and has been a regular feature and had a particularly healthy run in June.
The month started with an away game at Lancashire and Craig took 3 for 37 with the ball in Lancashire’s first innings but was wicket-less in the second.
A fairly uneventful home T20 match against Glamorgan followed before Craig showed the world his worth with bat-in-hand in the LV=CC game against Sussex at Taunton. With Somerset languishing on 125 for 7 Craig and Alfonso put on a ninth wicket stand of 81 before Craig was out for 86, a knock that included 9×4’s. His batting partner took the now infamous four wickets in four balls to leave Sussex on the ropes as Somerset sealed a well-deserved victory and revenge for a humiliating two-day defeat in 2013.
Three further modest showings in T20 Cricket followed before an impressive return to Championship Cricket with Craig gaining match figures of 7 for 150 against Nottinghamshire (4 for 102 & 3 for 48) in a game that Somerset unfortunately lost. But defending a small lead Craig opened the bowling in Notts’s second innings and took two wickets in the first over to get cider county supporters dreaming.
It was not to be.
Another big knock came in the home LV=CC game against Lancashire that started on 29th June, the match that saw the return to Taunton of Jos Buttler. Although Craig’s bowling bore no wickets he strolled out to bat at number eight in Somerset’s innings and scored a magnificent 99 including 9×4’s and 2×6’s! So close to his maiden first class hundred although, I suspect, that is not far away.
His all-round form has led to some writers to cite a likeness to Somerset legend Ian Botham but that is definitely a little premature.
But June was a good month for the young man in an extraordinary season and, after winning the monthly award, he was called up by the England Lions in a very strong looking squad.
He was presented his bottle of bubbly by James Brice of Somerset County Sports.
Afterwards Steve spoke exclusively with Craig and asked him if he was happy with his season so far, one that has yielded 306 runs with the bat in the LV=CC (at an average of 34) and 32 wickets with the ball?
“Yeah, it’s been good. I didn’t really expect this at the start especially after last year with injury. My aim was to get in the team and take some wickets and score some runs so it has been ideal for me really. “
So has the season exceeded even his expectations?
“Definitely, yeah! It has been above expectations. I knew I would have to start in the seconds but I played in the first game (v Yorkshire) and then got injured and thought it was all going to happen again. But I managed to get my place back and have done really well so I am pleased.”
So, if pushed to select the single highlight of his season so far, what would be his choice? After a few moments contemplation the young all-rounder added: “Probably the fivefer against Durham (21-6-3-5). The 99 (v Lancashire at Taunton) was brilliant for me but the fivefer was monumental to me as a bowler as it is difficult bowling here (at Taunton) and getting something out of the wicket sometimes so this was crucial I feel.”
Is the Lions call the icing on the cake after such a brilliant season and did he expect this?
“Yes it is but I wasn’t really expecting it. And when you look at the team announced it is quite a strong team so hopefully I can play a few games but it is nice just being called up. If I don’t play I will help the team out as much as possible, learn as much as possible and hopefully bring it back here.”
His fellow Devonian, Lewis Gregory, has also had a great season and it surprised a few Somerset fans that he didn’t get the call to the Lions too so does this make him more determined to seize his chance?
“It does, yeah. Lewis has done really well this year bowling excellent for us and scoring a lot of runs too and unfortunately he didn’t get in but I don’t think he is far away. The young lads in the team have all contributed so I hope we can keep it going.”
2013 was a horrid year with the aforementioned injury problems so is it easy to worry about the injury returning?
“I knew it would be tough coming back this year but I tried to forget about injuries because if you think about it too much you won’t perform as well as you want to. If I get injured again then I get injured again – it is what happens, a part of the game. I am just concentrating on my Cricket and to let that do the talking.”
While Craig was injured his twin brother Jamie was enjoying lots of success and media attention playing for Somerset and getting into the England A set up. Was it easy or hard watching his brother do well while he was laid up on the side-lines?
“It actually helped me seeing that he can do it as I knew that I can do it too. I just wanted to make sure that when I got the chance I wouldn’t make a mess of it and I haven’t. I was really happy for him for what he did last year and he hasn’t quite found it this year but that’s the way it goes in Cricket. It’s about confidence and he will be back.”
Was he a good spectator through those months out of the game?
“Not really, no. I would rather be out there playing. Every time.”
Congratulations to Craig on his season and we all hope he does well with the England Lions in the months ahead.