As Surrey’s players and management staff yesterday celebrated the 21st County Championship triumph in the club’s history, Jamie Overton looked across the Kia Oval outfield and reflected on what has been a remarkable summer for both his team and himself.
Fast bowling all-rounder Overton was not was not selected Surrey’s First XI when he celebrated his 28th birthday back in mid-April. Out of the side for the opening LV= Insurance County Championship fixture, away at 2021 title winners Warwickshire, Overton was instead played a second team game to work on a revamped run-up and bowling action.
Following a move to Surrey from Somerset in the summer of 2020, Jamie had a difficult period with the red ball. 2021 saw him take six wickets at an average of 75.66 in his eight Championship appearances.
“Yes, it’s amazing to look back on what has happened since then,” said Overton, who has so far contributed 33 wickets in nine championship appearances at 24.72 while also scoring 345 runs, including one knock of 93, to Surrey’s title-winning campaign.
In addition, of course, his early-season form with ball and bat led to a dream Test debut for England against New Zealand in late June, a match at Headingley in which he scored an impressive 97 and also took two wickets to showcase his chief assets of genuine pace and steep bounce.
An ankle injury sustained towards the end of July then meant seven weeks on the sidelines, but Overton returned this week in time to play a part in the 10-wicket defeat of Yorkshire which, once second-placed Hampshire had lost against Kent at Southampton, meant that Surrey had an unassailable 27-point lead at the top of Division One.
“I never thought I’d play for England this summer,” said Overton, “because at the start of the season I was more concerned in getting my bowling back on track. Everything has just gone so well, and winning this title is what I came to Surrey for. This is a great club and I love playing at the Oval. I know my role, with ball and with the bat, and I’m so pleased for everyone here that we’ve become county champions this year.”
The remodelling of Overton’s action, the root cause of his career transformation this summer, is testament not just to the drive and desire of the player himself but also to the work done with him by Azhar Mahmood, who joined his former county Surrey as interim bowling coach a month or so before the start of the season, and by Richard Johnson, the former England seamer who was Surrey’s assistant coach before departing to become Middlesex head coach last winter.
They both worked on Overton’s body position at the crease, stopping him from falling away to the offside in his delivery stride, and also on accelerating his speed through his bowling action – from a shortened run-up but a more explosive approach to the wicket.
The result has been more accuracy and consistency in his bowling, but with no reduction in the pace which sets Overton apart from most other English quicks. A Test cap, and now a county title, are the tangible rewards in his summer to remember.
“To be a part of this Surrey pace bowling attack is also great for me,” added Overton. “Dan Worrall has been an unbelievably good signing this year and he has made a big difference. But to have Kemar Roach, Jordan Clark, Sam Curran and talented young lads like Tom Lawes and Gus Atkinson to bowl with too is just brilliant. It’s been an amazing season.”