Over­ton’s ex­plo­sive late-or­der cen­tury bol­sters ti­tle chances

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport | Cricket - Bob Willis Tro­phy By Scyld Berry CHIEF CRICKET WRITER at Edg­bas­ton

War­wick­shire (121 & 104-6) trail Som­er­set (413-9 dec) by 188 runs

Som­er­set will be­come the first county to win three matches in the Bob Willis Tro­phy if the weather al­lows them to wrap up War­wick­shire’s last four wick­ets. Som­er­set have never won the County Cham­pi­onship, but win­ning the five-day fi­nal at Lord’s, which starts on Sept 23, would go a long way to break­ing their psy­cho­log­i­cal bar­rier.

Any fu­ture cham­pi­onship, how­ever, will have to be won with­out their match-win­ner in this game, Jamie Over­ton, the lat­est sign­ing by the Bank of Sur­rey. He thrashed 120 off 92 balls at No10. Only two higher scores have ever been made in that po­si­tion in county cricket.

When War­wick­shire bowled from the new pav­il­ion end, Over­ton had the ben­e­fit of a short leg-side bound­ary of around 60 yards, yet it was still se­ri­ous club­bing. Pro­fes­sional crick­eters are not used to fetch­ing the ball af­ter it has been hit for six, but these are Covid times, so War­wick­shire’s field­ers kept trot­ting up the steps of the Hol­lies Stand.

Over­ton, whose pre­vi­ous high­est first-class in­nings had been 56, hit 15 fours and six sixes. At one stage all four leg-side field­ers were on the bound­ary for him. By the time he reached 99, War­wick­shire cap­tain Will Rhodes was so dazed he kept five field­ers on the bound­ary: it might have been the first time any­one has gone to a cen­tury with only four op­po­nents try­ing to save the sin­gle.

The only two No 10s to have scored more than 120 in county cricket are Ja­son Gillespie, when rep­re­sent­ing York­shire, and John

Chap­man, of Der­byshire. Chap­man made the high­est, 165, in 1910 in the min­ing com­mu­nity of Black­well (a Der­byshire com­mit­tee man owned the col­liery) af­ter War­wick­shire thought they had the game won af­ter two days, and cel­e­brated ac­cord­ingly. Chap­man, Der­byshire’s cap­tain and an Old Up­ping­hamian, joined an Eng­land fast bowler, Arnold War­ren, and, in sav­ing the game, they added 283, to this day the high­est first-class stand for the ninth wicket.

With Steve Davies, Over­ton added 180, three short of Som­er­set’s high­est ninth­wicket stand. Still, there were enough records for one in­nings, like break­ing the high­est score by a Som­er­set No 10, which was 101 by Richard John­son; and the cu­rios­ity that the ball had to be changed dur­ing the 72nd over, bowled by Tim Bres­nan, be­cause it went soft.

But it made no dif­fer­ence whether it was the soft ball, or its re­place­ment, or the se­cond new ball: Davies stroked them through the cov­ers and Over­ton blud­geoned them straight or pulled them for six. Even Bres­nan was belted, un­til he broke the 172-ball stand when Over­ton charged and edged a catch to the keeper straight af­ter call­ing for fresh gloves, which is usu­ally a fa­tal move for tail-en­ders.

No less as­ton­ish­ing was that within an hour Over­ton was bowl­ing like the wind. When Sir Ian Botham hit one of his cen­turies against Aus­tralia in 1979-80, at his phys­i­cal peak, he was too stiff to bowl flat-out. So much have times and fit­ness regimes changed that this cen­tu­rion was soon clock­ing 90 mph.

More rel­e­vant though to Eng­land was the bowl­ing of Craig Over­ton, who has trans­formed since he played his four Tests. He runs in, smoothly ac­cel­er­at­ing, whereas he rather lum­bered, as if still run­ning up the slope and into the wind at West Buck­land school. He bowled his first six overs for seven runs and tied down Sam Hain to one run off 28 balls. When Jamie Over­ton re­placed Craig, Hain scored six off his first two balls, then slashed the third to first slip. That wicket was shared be­tween the twins. Profit­ing from Craig’s hos­tile ac­cu­racy – he has bowled 25 overs for 30 runs and three wick­ets in the match – and Jamie’s speed, Josh Davey cashed in with three quick wick­ets as War­wick­shire crum­bled a se­cond time. Be­tween them Ian Bell and Hain have not made as many runs in this com­pe­ti­tion as Jamie Over­ton clubbed in an hour of the long han­dle.

Hard hit­ting: Jamie Over­ton struck 15 fours and six sixes

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