Exciting Somerset youngster Tom Banton’s match-winning performances in his side’s march to One-Day Cup glory have already earned him the label of the next Jos Buttler.
The 20-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman scored 69 off 67 balls at Lord’s on Saturday in Somerset’s comfortable six-wicket win over holders Hampshire.
That had winning captain Tom Abell likening him to two other star wicketkeepers nurtured at Taunton during the past decade – England vice-captain Buttler and the prematurely retired Craig Kieswetter.
“It was a big stage and Tom Banton performed once again,” Abell told BBC Sport.
“He’s a phenomenal talent. Already he is being talked about in the same breath as previous Somerset wicketkeeper-batters like Jos Buttler and Craig Kieswetter.
“And quite rightly so too, as he’s got that much ability.”
Banton now a ‘more mature’ version
Banton has only made two first-class appearances, but he has come of age in this competition, proving why he is regarded as one of the brightest young talents in the country.
He has made 454 runs in 11 matches, with one of his two centuries coming in the quarter-final win against Worcestershire, to go with three fifties.
A little too late to be considered for England’s World Cup squad this summer, but he is clearly a future contender.
“He’s had an unbelievable competition,” said Abell. “He has a huge amount of talent. You’ve just got to let him play. He can take games away from the opposition and he performed once again.
“But he’s also starting to think a bit more about his innings. In the last few weeks, we’ve seen a far more mature version of ‘Bants’.”
‘A very special day at Lord’s’
Somerset had been runners-up 10 times in 14 years in various competitions since their previous trophy win – the Twenty20 Cup in 2005.
But Abell believes their first victory at “the home of cricket” since 2001 has lifted the pressure of his young team of having to live up to the standards set in their golden age from 1979 to 1983, when, with Ian Botham, Viv Richards and Joel Garner in their pomp, they won five trophies in as many years.
“It’s a very special day,” said Abell. “We were absolutely desperate to win.
“Sometimes you can’t play with total freedom in a final but this does now release the shackles a little bit.
“We can be talked about us as winners, rather than runners-up.
“It means a huge amount for us as a team and for the supporters too. It sounded like a lot of cider had been drunk in that one corner of the ground and it was a good feeling that we could bring it home for them.”
Hildreth showed his class
Fittingly, the wining runs were hit at Lord’s by James Hildreth, the only survivor from that 2005 Twenty20 triumph against Lancashire, when he also hit the winning runs at The Oval.
“‘Hildy’ is absolute class,” said Abell. “He never looks like he’s under any pressure. He’s such a skilful batter and a great team man.
“A few of our more experienced players have been to a few finals now and not quite managed to get over the line.
“This is a new team and we want to create our own legacy.”
As for Abell himself, at 25 one of the youngest captains in county cricket, he was particularly pleased to play a little cameo himself.
He picked up two wickets, including opposing skipper Sam Northeast, when he came on to bowl after Lewis Gregory had been injured.
“In an ideal world, I would have not had to bowl,” he said. “I was just trying to fill in for a few overs as Lewis was feeling a bit sore, and came up with a couple of wickets.”
Overton over the moon
Jamie Overton began the week leading up to the final out on loan, playing County Championship Division Two cricket with Northamptonshire in a bid to get some game time.
He ended the week as man of the match at Lord’s.
It was an award he was perhaps a touch fortunate to get for his 3-48 – three wickets which consisted of an inside edge to bowl last year’s Lord’s final centurion Rilee Rossouw and two mistimed top edges, both to George Bartlett at long leg.
However, Abell was delighted with him.
“When Jamie is firing like that, he can really rip teams apart,” he added. “He’s a massive player for us.
“Not many can bowl at 90mph like he can. He really took the bull by the horns and helped win us the game.”
Overton’s twin brother Craig has made three Test appearances, all of them against Australia in the winter of 2017-18, as well as a one-day international against the same opposition at Chester-le-Street last summer.
Jamie, by contrast, has not yet made that step up to full internationals, having only previously represented England at Under-19 and Lions level.
After his past injury woes, he was asked whether doing so well on such a big stage as Lord’s might prove the classic route to potential England contention.
But, although his efforts at Lord’s followed five wickets in the match for Northants in their draw with Sussex, Overton modestly played down such talk.
“It’s quite a good feeling,” he said. “I tried to treat it as just another game of cricket but it obviously had a lot more on it than that. And I’m just glad I could contribute.”