Jamie Overton believes he’s ready to become one of the best fast bowlers in the world, after learning to bowl within himself until the time is right to go full throttle.
Overton, 24, has been on England’s radar ever since word began to filter out from Taunton that here was a bowler who could bowl in excess of 90mph. He made his first senior squad as a 19-year-old in 2013 but five years later that first England cap is proving elusive.
He was touted for the 2017-18 Ashes squad, only for his twin brother Craig to get the call-up instead. There was a lobby of support for him to be part of the current England tour of Sri Lanka, but the selectors instead chose Warwickshire’s own 90mph bowler, Olly Stone.
Instead, along with brother Craig and their Somerset teammate Dom Bess, he is heading for the United Arab Emirates for the England Lions series against Pakistan A, which opens with a four-day match in Abu Dhabi on November 18 and also involves five 50-over matches and two T20s.
It comes after a domestic summer in which not only did he avoid the serious back injuries that blighted his 2016 and 2017 seasons, but in which he also made what he feels is a significant breakthrough.
“I know that with my pace I have an an opportunity that some other bowlers don’t have,” he said. “Being able to bowl at 90mph-plus gives you an edge, definitely, although pace is not the be-all and end-all and if you can’t bowl with control and hit the right areas you aren’t going to scare anyone.
“But I feel I have made a bit of a breakthrough these last six months. I’ve altered my action a bit to reduce the stress on my body without losing too much pace.
“And I have learned that while I can produce those 90mph-plus deliveries, you don’t need to bowl max out all the time.
“I was looking at Mitchell Starc last winter. He would have spells where he was only bowling 83-84-85mph but with skills. Then he would crank up to 89-90mph when he wanted to.
“You can settle in, do your skilful work and still go for no runs but take wickets, but when you need to, or when you’ve taken a couple of wickets and you feel there is a chance of getting some more quickly, then you can fire and potentially go through a side.”
Overton cited a match against Yorkshire at Headingley in August as a moment he felt his skills were all coming together. Somerset won by 224 runs after dismissing the home side for 194 on the last day.
“We were really toiling before lunch and picked up only one wicket,” he said. “But when I came on after lunch it just clicked and I was able to bowl fast but I had control and a good rhythm.” He finished with 4 for 24 from 14.3 overs.
“It is just trying to find those moments consistently,” he said. “I feel like when I am at my best I’m probably one of the best bowlers in the world.
“I need to work more on my control. Until now I have felt so much more comfortable bowling around the wicket than over, so I’m trying to alter my action so it feels the same bowling over and around, so that I feel I can be equally effective against left-handers and right-handers.
“I’m also learning to read the game better, so that I can recognise when to just sit in and when to try something.
“I grew up watching Freddie [Flintoff] and he would always look like he was controlling the game and when they needed something to happen he would always make something happen.
“That was what got me into the game, watching him playing and making things happen for England. That has to be what I’m aiming for, to be a bowler who is able to do that.”