JAMIE Overton feels ready to repay the faith of England selectors and follow twin brother Craig into the Test match arena.
The 26-year-old Somerset pace bowler, whose hopes of playing international cricket have been dogged by a series of injuries stretching back to 2016, has been impressing in the nets at Taunton since returning to action as part of the England training group.
His efforts were rewarded today (Weds) when that behind-closed-doors training group was reduced from 55 to 30 ahead of the Test match against West Indies at the Ageas Bowl, starting on July 8.
Both Overton brothers were retained, along with Somerset team-mates Lewis Gregory, Jack Leach and Dom Bess and Gloucestershire’s James Bracey.
For Jamie, it was an indication that he remains firmly in the minds of England selectors following ankle surgery at the end of last season.
“You never expect selection for England squads and, while I was hopeful of making the 30, it is still a great boost for me at an important time,” he said.
“It was necessary to take things steadily on returning to training after such a long break from cricket. But this week everything has clicked and the ball has been coming out really well in the nets.
“I have made a small adjustment to my action to help my alignment, which should benefit me in all formats of the game and enable me to swing the ball more.
“My pace is up there with what it has ever been, but I don’t consider myself simply a fast bowler. At my best I do get the ball to swing and that is an important asset to develop.”
While Craig Overton already boasts four Test appearances for England, Jamie’s hopes of senior international recognition have suffered numerous setbacks since he first drew notice from the selectors at the age of 19.
Back problems caused him to miss the second half of the County Championship season in 2016 and 2017, while he missed the first six games of the 2018 campaign after suffering a side strain.
The past two summers have been a lot better, but a bone spur in an ankle ended last season prematurely and resulted in an operation.
Jamie then accompanied the England Lions on their winter tour to Australia to complete his rehabilitation.
“That was so important,” he said. “Just to be training on grass, rather than indoors, was a huge help and the ankle has been fine for a while now.
“There was even talk that I might play in the last game of the tour. I felt fit enough to do so, but in the end it wasn’t considered worth the risk.
“Now my body feels good and I reckon I am overdue a change of fortune with injuries. The fitness guys at Somerset, Jamie Thorpe and Joel Tratt, have been brilliant and I owe them a lot.
“The England selectors have stood by me and it’s time I rewarded their faith. Hopefully, the chance to do so may not be far away.
“Craig and I have played in the same team together since we were kids and the ambition has always been to do so for England.
“The squad will be reduced again before the Test against West Indies so my next objective is to impress during the training camp at the Ageas Bowl, which starts next week.”