CRAIG Overton believes the dream of playing in an England Test team that also includes brother Jamie is coming closer to reality.
The North Devon twins are among six Somerset players named in a 55-man England training squad to prepare for the return of international cricket after the Covid-19 pandemic. Both went through the Devon youth system and honed their skills in one and three-day cricket for Devon CCC.
The other call-ups are Tom Banton, Devonians Dom Bess and Lewis Gregory and Jack Leach, to provide confirmation that Somerset’s squad is now regarded among the strongest in county cricket.
The bowlers in the squad began training individually at their clubs last Friday and Craig, who already has four Test appearances under his belt, is convinced his brother is ready to make a strong case for selection in the proposed forthcoming series against West Indies, which awaits final sign-off from the UK Government.
“From a distance, it looks to me as though Jamie is bowling rockets in the nets,” said Craig, who is the elder of the twins by a couple of minutes. “Despite his past injury problems, he is capable of bowling as fast or faster than anyone in the country.
“Jamie has been really unfortunate with injuries. But his back problems appear over and, although he had ankle surgery at the end of last season, he had played in a lot of the games.
“Like many of the players at Somerset, he is approaching his peak years. Our aim since schooldays has been to both play for England and I firmly believe it will happen.”
Craig had a busy winter, attending a fast bowling camp in Cape Town, then returning there with the England squad and finally spending six weeks in Australia with the Lions.
Jamie also travelled Down Under with the Lions party, but purely to aid his rehabilitation after the ankle operation.
“We both enjoyed what was a very successful tour,” said Craig. “Although Jamie couldn’t play, he certainly benefited from training on grass and in warm weather.
“I’m not looking forward to facing him in the nets when that becomes possible. Every team in the world wants a genuinely quick seam bowler and Jamie fits that bill.”
Craig admits life has been strange since he returned from Australia in March.
“I was looking forward to a week’s rest before Somerset’s proposed pre-season trip to Abu Dhabi,” he said.
“But that had to be cancelled and the break from cricket has turned out to be much longer than I expected.
“During the furlough period, I have kept myself fit by doing a lot of running and some gym work in the garden. But it isn’t the same as training with your team-mates.”
Gloucestershire batsman James Bracey was also named in the England training group and Craig says he was impressed by the 23-year-old Bristolian during the Lions tour.
“James got runs in most of the games and seemed a really steady player,” he said. “I hadn’t seen much of him before, but he looked the part and has clearly made a lot of progress in relatively few seasons.
“At Somerset we are really excited to have six players in the training group. Had the season started on schedule, we had every reason to be confident about doing well in all formats.”
The ECB is awaiting Government approval to stage international cricket this summer with hopes to stage a behind-closed-doors Test series against West Indies next month.
With any schedule of matches likely to be close together there appears a likelihood that players will be rotated. That could provide the likes of the Overton twins and those named in the back-to-training group opportunities to make a mark across formats this summer.