Overton’s explosive late-order century bolsters title chances
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