After Jake Ball went over on his ankle during the recent England game against a Cricket Australia XI and was ruled out of the final warm-up, he became the latest fast bowler to suffer an injury in the lead up to the Ashes. Toby Roland-Jones (back) and Steven Finn (knee) have been ruled out of the tour and Mark Wood (ankle) and Liam Plunkett (groin) may play a part in the tour should they be needed and should they prove their fitness with the Lions and in the Bangladesh Premier League respectively.
As well as those four, England Lions representatives Jamie Porter and Jamie Overton are both dealing with back injuries and Ben Stokes’ involvement is still up in the air. This meant that it was no surprise that when asked about the decision to call up 20-year-old Sussex seamer George Garton as cover, despite having only played 9 first class games, England coach Trevor Bayliss simply responded with “He’s fit.”
So, by virtue of injuries, the left-armer sees himself joining fellow uncapped Test bowlers Craig Overton and Tom Curran on a tour that every young English cricketer dreams of going on. However, the question remains, who is George Garton?
Garton was born in Brighton and came through the ranks at his home county Sussex, from the under-13s all the way through to his senior team debut in 2016, and at his school, Hurstpierpoint College.
Nick Creed, Hurst’s Director of Cricket and Assistant Director of Sport, worked with Garton during his time at the school. “George was a very able sportsman. He played rugby to a high level at Hurst and he quite easily could’ve been a national performer at hockey is what I’ve been told.
“There was something about George, he had a very competitive edge to him. That, along with his very strong skill set, was something you could see taking him far further down the line and ultimately it has. The school is very proud of him.”
It was his development at the school which helped the young bowler get involved with Sussex from such an early age. “Due to our geography and our closeness to Hove, students have access to the county more frequently. George would have been down there three or four times a week, working with the likes of Keith Greenfield (Director of Cricket), Carl Hopkinson (Academy Director) and Mark Robinson (former Head Coach) when he was there as well as Jon Lewis (Assistant Coach) and Mike Yardy (Batting Coach) who have both worked at Hurst”, Creed told me in an exclusive chat at the school.
Garton was first spotted by England at under-19s level where he played alongside Haseeb Hameed and fellow Ashes squad member Mason Crane and has also represented the Lions, but with just nine first class appearances in which Garton has taken 23 wickets at an average of 36.47, was his former teacher surprised by news of his call-up?
“When I heard they were talking about the Lions programme running in conjunction with the Ashes, I thought that it won’t be too far if something happens and George being on the Lions program in Australia at the same time as the Ashes squad was going to mean that he could be considered for a call-up.”
As a left-arm seamer with genuine pace Garton is a valuable commodity for England going forward and has already drawn the inevitable comparisons to Mitchell Starc after impressing the England coaching team in recent net sessions bowling at the senior team. “I was lucky enough to do it before the Oval Test against South Africa last summer. I loved that experience” Garton told Sky Sports.
When asked about his former student’s potential, Creed believes Garton can be an England player for many years to come. “Being a left-arm seamer in the modern world seems to be a skill that people want to get the most out of. He is young and he is quick and people tell me he will get quicker. This is exciting and I imagine he will continue to work hard on doing more with the ball, both off the pitch and in the air, and it will be exciting for England to have that kind of talent to call upon, bearing in mind he’s only 20.”
Garton spent October in Melbourne whilst on holiday with his Australian partner Liz and there Garton linked up with Victoria’s second XI, a meeting arranged by former Sussex and Australia all-rounder Tony Dodemaide. He had a spell bowling against them in a nets session and then returned to the ECB’s National Cricket Performance Centre in Loughborough for some last-minute preparation before he was meant to fly back out to Australia with the rest of the Lions.
However, after Ball’s injury, he was given the opportunity to join the likes of James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes as cover for the remaining warm-up game in Townsville to ensure they did not join the expanding list of England’s injury concerns.
Now that the Test match series has begun, with Ball being passed fit to play, Garton has rejoined his Lions colleagues for their matches in Brisbane and Perth and will then spend the first 3 months of next year touring the West Indies.
Even so, with the bad luck England seem to be experiencing at the moment it is certainly not out of the question that he could go from bowling to Victoria’s Second XI in the nets at the MCG to bowling against Steve Smith and David Warner in an Ashes Test match at that same venue. Talk about a roller-coaster couple of months!