Craig Overton back in South Africa with England Lions

Cove England3Somerset’s Craig Overton returned to South Africa over New Year for the start of a five-week England Lions tour of the country.

The Devon-born all-rounder has been selected for both the first-class and one-day legs of the tour.

He has already spent much of the winter in South Africa as part of an England Performance Programme (EPP) fast bowling training camp which finished shortly before Christmas.

The 20-year-old was one of seven pacemen to undertake the four-week training camp in Potchefstroom, a place well known for altitude training.

Speaking to the ECB website this week, Craig hailed the positive impact EPP lead fast bowling coach Kevin Shine and former West Indies coach Ottis Gibson had on his development during the camp.

He told ecb.co.uk: “Gibbo has been really good. He has developed me a little bit. He just gives a different opinion to what Shiney gives.

“It is always nice to get other people’s thoughts on what they think I can improve on so you can gather both points of view and see what is best to you.”

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Craig, whose training had been hampered by a minor ankle injury, did not make major changes to his action, instead focusing on going back to basics.

He said: “It was just bowling, getting back into it after having six weeks off after the [English domestic] season.

“It was slowly trying to get back into it and change a few things. But I was pretty happy with how I was before so I didn’t have to change much.”

The seven fast bowlers were joined by James Anderson and Stuart Broad, who were both recovering from injury. But they were not the only athletes taking advantage of the world-class facilities in Potchefstroom.

Women’s 400 metres world champion and former Olympic gold medallist Christine Ohuruogu was also training there.

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Ensuring Shine and Gibson were allowed a break, Ohuruogu gave up her time to put on a training session for the players, while also having a net.

“It was a strange experience because you don’t really come out and expect to train with Olympians!” said Craig.

Over the next few weeks, Craig will be under the expert guidance of former England paceman Chris Silverwood, who is working with the Lions seamers in the early stages of their tour.

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Silverwood will work with Lions coach Mark Robinson for the first two fixtures of the tour – a three-day match against a South African Invitation XI in Soweto starting next Monday, before the first of two four-day matches against South Africa A in Paarl.

Silverwood, who now works as assistant head coach at Essex, told the ECB website: “It’s a great honour to be here working with such an exciting group of fast bowlers, and a big opportunity.

“I’ve always loved coming to South Africa, going right back to some time I spent playing club cricket early in my Yorkshire career. It’s a great place to play the game.”

Silverwood will return to Essex midway through the month with Ottis Gibson, joining the Lions for the remainder of the tour.

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The Lions had a light training session at the famous Wanderers ground on Friday afternoon after arriving in Johannesburg earlier that morning, and will step up their preparations over the weekend.

The captain for the first-class leg of the tour is England and Warwickshire batsman Jonathan Trott.

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