Tom returns to training and eager to hit ground running

Tom Banton has now returned to training at the Cooper Associates County Ground as part of the England white-ball group and believes the enforced break from cricket caused by COVID-19 may actually prove beneficial.

At the age of 21, the Somerset youngster is already something of a superstar, having made his England debuts in T20 and 50-over internationals during the winter, following some thrilling performances for his county.

Since the end of last season, Banton has also played T10 cricket in Abu Dhabi and later represented Brisbane Heat in the Big Bash and Peshawar Zalmi in the Pakistan Super League.

Not bad for a player with only 12 first class matches under his belt. But Banton admits that towards the end of his frantic winter, the constant travelling and accumulation of pressure matches took its toll.

“I didn’t do well in Pakistan, although I learned a lot,” he said. “By then I had fallen out of love with the game temporarily because I had played so much and really needed a break.

“Now, having not hit a ball since March, all my enthusiasm is back and I can’t wait for the new season to start, however short it proves to be.”

It’s hardly surprising that Banton’s schedule proved taxing. After making his England T20 debut in New Zealand last autumn, he flew straight to Abu Dhabi where he played for Qalandars in a T10 tournament.

Then, after just two weeks back at home, he flew to Australia for the Big Bash where he hit five successive sixes in an over for Brisbane Heat in scoring 56 off just 19 balls against Sydney Thunder.

Another fortnight at home at the conclusion of that high-profile competition ended when Banton joined the England squad in South Africa, where he played his first one-day international at Cape Town in February.

He now has three T20 and three 50-over appearances for England under his belt, although one of the longer format games at Durban was heavily curtailed by rain before he had the chance to bat.

By the time he got to Pakistan, Banton was unable to do himself justice. But he insists he wouldn’t have missed any of his winter commitments if offered the chance to change them.

“You have to cope with disappointment as well as success in professional sport and I had to come to terms with playing poorly in Pakistan,” he said.

“That trip still gave me the chance to work with a top quality batting coach in Hashim Amla, having done the same with Darren Lehmann at Brisbane Heat.

“Going into the winter, I had wanted to grasp every opportunity offered to me. And, while it did affect my form eventually, I don’t regret any of it.

“In Pakistan I was playing in front of 50,000 and 60,000 crowds, which was unbelievable.

“Playing for England, first in New Zealand, and then in South Africa where my father was born, was very special. In both cases I just set out to enjoy my debuts, having dreamt of such things playing in the garden as kid.”

Buckinghamshire-born Banton joined Somerset’s Academy in 2015 and made his first team debut against Middlesex at Uxbridge in the 2017 T20 Blast.

Last season he carried all before him, helping his county win the Royal London One-Day Cup with some brilliant displays, capped by scoring 68 in the final against Hampshire.

Some memorable innings in the Vitality Blast followed and Banton ended up being named Young Cricketer of the Year by the Professional Cricketers Association and the Cricket Writers Club.

He keeps wicket as well as bludgeoning top class bowlers with a vast range of shots, which has drawn inevitable comparisons with former Somerset player Jos Buttler.

Refreshed and eager to return to action, Banton is now keen to make a mark in the County Championship.

“My ambition is to play Test cricket for England and I don’t want to be labelled simply as a big-hitter in limited overs games,” he said.​

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