Craig O back at Taunton after England Lions duty

Coverton batsSomerset’s Craig Overton returned to Taunton this week after playing for England Lions in their triangular one-day series with the New Zealand and Sri Lanka A teams.

Craig played in all four of the Lions’ matches. The highlight was almost certainly appearing for his country in front of a home crowd at Taunton in the opening game, a memorable occasion for Craig and the Overton family.

In all he took three wickets with the ball, two of them key players, but due to the strength of the batting above him in the order had little chance to show what he can do with the bat.

His selection for the tournament crowned an excellent season for Somerset with bat and ball, which has also seen him included on the longlist for the LVCC Breakthrough Player of the year award.

New Zealand A packed their side with players with some existing Test or ODI experience as they examined options for the forthcoming World Cup, whereas Sri Lanka A picked a younger, more experimental side, which made for a contrasting, if slightly one-sided series.

In the first game at Taunton, Overton didn’t get to bat as the Lions top order piled up 339-5 in 50 overs, with Alex Hales scoring a century and Jason Roy memorably striking five sixes in one over.

In reply, Craig bowled six overs and took one wicket for 43 runs, his figures dented by one over which went for 13 runs. He came into the attack in the 11th over and bowled a four-over spell for 27, before returning to bowl two overs later in the innings when Sri Lanka were well behind the run rate, accounting for Ashan Priyanjan in his sixth and final over. Priyanjan had stuck around as wickets had fallen around him, but was bowled by Overton off the bottom edge, trying to pull a ball which cramped him for room. Craig also took two catches and the Lions won by a comfortable 51-run margin as they were dismissed for 288.

The Lions’ next match was at Bristol on 8 August against New Zealand A, who reached 282 all out off their 50 overs. Overton was the first change bowler, coming on to bowl the 10th over of the day and making an immediate impact with his third delivery when he picked up Anton Devcich for 24. The opener flashed at one outside off stump, only to edge the ball through to Tom Smith in the slips.

However, Dean Brownlie then proceded to take the game away from the Lions as he made his way to 115. Overton had a big shout for lbw turned down against the New Zealander when he reached 45 and finished with figures of 8-0-36-1.

In reply, the Lions were dismissed 23 runs short of their target for 260 off 47.4 overs, despite a magnificent 123 from Johnny Bairstow. Unfortunately Overton was unable to keep Bairstow company as he lost his footing slightly going for a quick single and was run out, without facing, for 0.

The Lions moved to Worcester for the final two matches of the tournament, firstly taking on Sri Lanka A on 11 August.

Sri Lanka batted first and racked up 283-6 in their 50 overs, Dinesh Chandimal making 119.

Overton took a key wicket again, breaking a 91-run partnership to have Bhanuka Rajapaksa caught by James Vince for 46, hooking a short one.

He bowled some extremely tidy overs, but took some punishment in others, Chandimal hitting him for four boundaries in all. He finished with figures of 1-60 off his full quota of 10 overs.

In reply the Lions won comfortably, reaching their target for the loss of just three wickets, Ravi Bopara and Lions skipper James Taylor both making centuries.

The final game – against New Zealand A at Worcester 12 August – was effectively a final as both sides had beaten Sri Lanka.

The Lions batted first and managed 255-8 off their 50 overs, Overton falling lbw to slow left armer Anton Devcich for 2.

Set a D/L score of 220 off 36 overs, the Kiwis reached them with 3.3 overs to spare. Overton bowled only four overs this time, conceding 29 runs without adding to his wicket tally.

The Lions were coached by the ECB’s Technical Director of Elite Coaching Andy Flower. Afterwards he spoke to Cric Info about the young players in the Lions squad: “They were really energetic, even though they were coming off the back of a busy county season, and they were an exciting bunch of cricketers to work with so I really did enjoy it.”

“There is real talent in English cricket and this sort of learning experience is excellent for them. There are a few spots open for debate I guess and it’s the selectors’ job to make that decision.”

Lions skipper Taylor told the ECB website: “We are massively disappointed not to win the tournament with the calibre of players we’ve got in the side but it’s a learning experience for all of us.

“We were beaten by the better side in both games and they deserved this one. They’ve got some extremely experienced players in their ranks with both the bat and the ball.”

Taylor added: “It’s up to us to learn from the things that we did well and not so well. We played extremely well when we played Sri Lanka. When we played New Zealand they put us on the back foot and they played better cricket in both of the games.”

This is the second time Craig has been selected for England Lions. He toured Australia as part of a Lions squad in early 2013 and also won a place on the ECB Potential Emerging Player Programme in South Africa at the start of this year.