On the face of it, George Garton appears be an odd pick as a replacement for the injured Jake Ball for England’s tour fixture against a Cricket Australia XI. The Sussex bowler has played just nine first-class games and has never taken more than three wickets in an innings in four-day cricket.
Yet, with a raft of injuries suffered not only to bowlers in the full England squad, but the Lions squad too, Garton is being hurriedly elevated. Mark Wood is yet to bowl off his full run-up in training after sustaining a heel injury, while Tom Helm, another promising quick, is also not quite match-fit after suffering a minor hamstring injury.
But there is much about Garton which, despite his inexperience, makes him an exciting prospect in his own right. His rapidity has impressed the likes of Andy Flower and Ottis Gibson.
With an unusual, slingy left-arm action, Garton is not too dissimilar to Australia’s Mitchell Johnson, and in an England attack conspicuously right-armed and fast-medium, he could add much-needed variety.
Garton is Sussex CC through and through. He was born in Brighton and followed Sharks stalwart Matt Machan to the club from Hurstpierpoint College.
While a degree of caution is warranted, Garton is someone for whom success has always come ahead of schedule. The first over he bowled at the 2016 Under 19 World Cup in Bangladesh was a double-wicket maiden, he took a wicket with his first ball in first-class cricket against Leeds/Bradford MCCU, and received his first call-up to the England Lions one-day side just a month after making his List A debut.
Should Garton continue to impress Trevor Bayliss with his pace in the nets, Garton could be thrust into the midst of an Ashes battle. He already has some experience of Australian conditions, having been invited to bowl in the Victoria nets at the MCG while visiting his partner there.
“It was a great experience to get on Australian wickets for the first time and let the Aussies have it a bit,” he said in Loughborough upon his return. “I managed to get it down there and let them sniff a few. There’s no better feeling than hurling it down there as quick as you can and seeing the poles go everywhere, or making the batsmen feel uncomfortable.”
It’s likely, apart from this detour through Townsville, Garton will spend the winter developing his game with the Lions. Chief among his concerns will be his accuracy; while he shares many of Johnson’s good qualities, a first-class economy of 4.10 suggests he also shares his propensity for waywardness.
Should he manage to add control to his fire, expect George Garton to be putting on an England shirt and hurrying the best batsmen in the world before too long.