New and improved Jamie Overton tipped to be ‘one of the best allrounders in the world’

Jamie Overton has been a long time coming. He impressed at U-19 level ten years ago and was first called up to an England squad in 2013. Despite being almost permanently on England’s radar, he will only make his England debut today, at Headingley.
The pace has always kept them interested, but this season, a turn of events has finally put him in the spotlight. England are missing nearly a whole squad of fast bowlers due to injury, but Overton’s performance for Surrey this season means he would at least have beeped clear on that radar.
He was the most outstanding English fast bowler on the track; his stroke rate of 38.3 is only improved by his twin brother Craig (min. five matches), but it’s – again, still – the pace people are cooing. He has amassed a fair amount of wickets but there has been just as much excitement over the crowds and menace of his bouncers. In some posts, he would have been 10 mph faster than any other bowler around him.
It is in stark contrast to last season’s desperate struggle, in which Overton took six wickets from 75 in eight games. The inconsistency was a theme, but this season, under the watchful eye of Azhar Mahmood, there are signs that may be changing.

Mahmood has quietly built an impressive coaching career, with international experience with Pakistan, polished by stints in the Pakistani Super League – most recently as head coach at Islamabad United. As an interim assistant coach at Surrey, he has taken on Overton as a personal project and the initial results, after some technical tweaks, have been spectacular.

“The first thing we did with him was reduce his run-up,” says Mahmood. “We’ve cut it down from 24 yards or so, to about 18 now. He lost momentum as he ran those final steps to the popping crease where you actually have to build that momentum.”

Because of that loss of momentum, Mahmood explains, he didn’t follow his target properly. “If you drive your hip through the action, you transfer weight and bring your hip forward, for the follow through. He stopped a little bit, but if you look now, he’s getting closer to the batsman. He’s taller at the fold now.”

Mahmood is meticulous when it comes to coming up with bowling moves, although he is careful not to tinker too much. His phone is a video treasure trove of bowlers and bowling moves from his work around the world; little tips he gave them, little tweaks he made, hours he spent watching and logging.

He identified Overton’s run-up as a main cause for the inconsistency in his release and action, which would lead to him often wandering down his leg. But the pre-season work yielded some immediate results. After shortening the run, Mahmood asked Overton to write down how many balls he tosses down the legs. Overton threw half an hour into the nets at Hashim Amla one day and Mahmood only remembers two balls Amla could play through the legs. Amla was impressed and wondered if Overton could maintain that consistency.

“Now you can see, it’s half a season over and he’s holding on,” said Mahmood. “Because of his pace, that inconsistency can creep in. At that pace, a good day can be a great day, but a bad day a very bad one. If you’re a little off-line at that pace, you’re going for a run. Jamie’s getting that consistency now He is still a work in progress. That will continue. But this season I think people have seen the best of him.”

Mahmood particularly remembers Overton’s first game this season. After being equipped for Surrey’s season opener for tactical reasons, Overton blew Hampshire away by an eight-wicket throw at The Oval. The performance had all the classic really fast bowling layoffs: an outswinger hitting the stumps, bouncers from around the wicket, yorkers, then a sustained attack with a short tone in the second innings. The speed gun, Mahmood says, clocked him at 92 mph at one point.
However, the only wicket he remembers is from the game in Somerset: Matt Renshaw bowled from over the wicket leaving a full ball that swung in late and quickly. †danday uraa diye [blew away his sticks]’ says Mahmood.
Mahmood has been almost as excited by Overton’s strikes this season, not least in a game against Kent, where he watched in awe as Overton hit a 92-ball 93. He sees a bit of himself in hitting: Mahmood hit three Test hundred, all against strong South African attacks, two in South Africa and seven and eight in the order. He averaged almost 32 in first-class cricket.

“I spoke to him about his batting,” he says. “I said you reminded me of myself, you have exactly the roll I used to have. To help build an innings lower in the order. I told him this is the roll. With that stroke, this man can one of the best are all-rounders in the world.

“I haven’t really done much with him. Jamie Overton is special. He’s a diamond. We just cut and polished him a little bit.”

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