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For twins, comparisons are inevitable – especially when both are big fast bowlers who have been cricketers of England interest since their teens.
So while Craig Overton has reached full national honours in recent years, it has been easy to wonder what his brother Jamie has been up to.
The Devon boys recently celebrated their 28th birthdays, and each made their first-class debuts for Somerset in early season 2012, a decade ago.
Since, Craig has featured in 40 more first-class matches than Jamie (109 v 79) and has exactly twice as many wickets (392 v 196) at an average 8.4 lower. Their batting has been similar, although Jamie has kicked on as a short-form hitter in recent seasons.
On the numbers alone, it is right that Craig has played eight Tests (and four ODIs) while Jamie remains uncapped. Yet while Craig is an admirable, durable, skilful seamer, many observers have long felt that Jamie is the bowler with the higher ceiling, and the greater pace that could help him crack Test cricket.
Their diverging statistics and paths perhaps say plenty about the sort of bowlers who thrive in the county game in which they have honed their skills. Craig is perfect for England. Jamie is less useful when it nibbles around, but has the skills to break open flatter games.
With that style comes risk, and he has struggled with the relentless nature of the English summer: only once since 2013 has he played 10 first-class matches in a season, and he has never taken more than 35 wickets in a season.
“We might do the same sort of thing but we are very different bowlers,” Jamie tells Standard Sport. "If I tried to bowl like Craig, it probably wouldn’t work and he probably couldn’t do the things I try to do.
“I have probably not been blessed with injuries like Craig has. I’ve put my body on the line trying to bowl my max every ball. Therefore I’m going to get those injuries.”
This season, Craig is topping the Division One wicket-taking charts again, with 16. But the early signs are that this might be the year Jamie makes the step up, too.
Overton, now of Surrey, sat out the season opener against Warwickshire while honing a shortened run-up he has worked on with assistant coach Azhar Mahmood. In the two games since – both excellent wins at the Kia Oval – he has taken 11 wickets, including career-best figures against Hampshire and a win over Craig’s Somerset side. In particular, there have been eye-catching dismissals of Liam Dawson and Matt Renshaw, with stumps flying due to late movement.
“I am probably bowling as quick as I have for a few years, getting back to what I was when I was younger,” he says. "That is simply because of my run up. I’m getting a bit more snap like I used to, a bit more force towards the batsman, rather than falling away to the side.
“With my longer run up I was slowing down so I wasn’t having as much energy going towards the target as I do now. When I run in harder, I build natural pace and it comes out better.
“You do need to do more than just bowl quick though. Guys don’t find facing 90mph comfortable, but you need to get the ball swinging to make it harder. That’s the process I am working on, keeping it moving at pace. It doesn’t have to swing a foot to make a difference. It only has to swing two inches at that pace and it’s more difficult.”
Overton believes that bowling like he does in the current county structure is difficult, and accepts he simply cannot play every week. It would be an achievement to play a third match in a row against Gloucestershire tomorrow.
“The fact there aren’t many 90mph bowlers,” he says. “It’s my belief that we play too much four-day cricket. Also because it’s a long season, it’s hard to bowl like that for six months. Test bowlers bowling 90mph don’t bowl for six months, they play for a couple of months and then have a couple of months off. You don’t do that in county cricket, you can’t.
“I know there will be guys where I’m not at my best, and settle in and bowl at 90 per cent, rather than crank it up. It is a long season and my body isn’t going to be able to take it. I try as hard as I can as much as I can.”
For Overton, a mid-season move to Surrey in 2020 posed challenges. In 2021, he managed just six wickets in eight matches and was ravaged by injury. He was returning to the West Country each weekend, and was not fully settled. Over the winter, though, he has bought a place near Wisley, just outside the M25, and is happier.
I think we’d be the first twins to play for England together. That would be amazing for us and the family.
“Growing up I said I never thought I’d live in London,” he says. “I’m not used to that sort of lifestyle.
“It’s always tough moving places, moving counties. You want to make a good impression. I probably tried a bit too hard last year. Wanted things to happen fast, and it didn’t work out and suddenly I was in a downward spiral. This year, another winter, getting to know the group better, it’s started nicely.”
Overton admits that in 2021’s tougher moments he contemplated following the white-ball only path (head coach Gareth Batty calls him Surrey’s Andre Russell for his style of play in T20), but his desire to play Test cricket has been reinvigorated, partly by his form, and partly by Craig’s continuing involvement in the setup.
“It’s made me a fraction hungrier,” he said. “I want to play Test cricket with Craig. That’s the dream we’ve had forever. I think we’d be the first twins to play for England together. That would be amazing for us and the family.”
Stay fit, keep bowling as he is, and it is not impossible.