Tom Banton moulded from same cast as Jos Buttler, the England player he is replacing in New Zealand

The Telegraph

The Telegraph

Author 2019-10-27 11:30:00


Jos Buttler is resting while England play their five-match T20 series in New Zealand, but will be back to bat and keep wicket in the two Tests that follow. In the meantime England could not have come closer to a like-for-like replacement than Tom Banton, the leading English run-scorer in this year’s county T20 competition.

In the international T20 format, which evolves so rapidly, Buttler has become one of England’s first-choice opening batsmen: in his five innings since being promoted to open last year, he has launched England with 191 runs off 116 balls. The 20-year-old Banton, although nine years junior to Buttler, is following fast in his footsteps.​

The same mould produced Buttler and Banton: playing cricket from infancy in the garden at home with a brother; hockey in winter to increase the strength and flexibility of forearms, wrists, hands and fingers; followed by schooling at King’s College Taunton, and a contract with Somerset, where the home pitches are belters and some boundaries invitingly short.​

It does no harm either if your father has played county cricket. Tom’s father Colin was born in South Africa, moved to England and played a handful of games for Nottinghamshire as a batsman: he did make two first-class fifties in 1995 but one was against Oxford University, the other against Cambridge. “He signed for two years,” Tom Banton said, “and left after one year. He’s never told me the reason why but he might not have been good enough.”​

But his father and mother, also sporty, provided exactly the right facilities for their two sons when they settled in England. “Dad used to own a wine business and we lived in France for two years when I was tiny, in Perpignan. My younger brother Jacques was born there.” Colin set up an organic fruit and vegetable business, then became a property consultant, and chairman of Barnt Green CC.​

It was in the back garden that Tom developed his default or “go-to” shot through midwicket.​

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“Me and my brother used to get the lawnmower and roll the wicket out, and we’d be out there eight hours a day, and mum would call us in for lunch or whatever. There were two massive trees behind the bowler so we tried to hit it leg side” – even if that entailed scrambling over the fence “every five minutes” to retrieve the ball from their neighbour’s garden.​

“When I was younger I just picked up the gloves, and ever since then I’ve done it,” said Banton, who has yet to break a finger.​

“Mum and dad used to have a pair of gloves in the garage and I’d put them on and keep in the garden. When I was 10 I scored four or five hundreds and a double hundred for Warwickshire Under-10s. At the Malvern Festival I got 203 against Herefordshire and remember thinking, this could possibly be me.”​

Every winter he played hockey for Sutton Coldfield, developing his bottom-handed shots.​

“But the self-belief came probably when I played for the second team here [at Somerset] a few years ago [2016] against Middlesex and scored 96 on debut and they had quite a good bowling attack [James Fuller, Tom Helm, Ryan Higgins] and I thought maybe I’m good enough at the highest level. I always think when you start playing as a youngster you’re not sure whether you’ll be able to face the bowlers you see on TV, and when you do, you actually know maybe it’s a career for you.”​

By then he had moved from Bromsgrove School, where Will Fraine and Matt Lamb were also up-and-coming batsmen, to King’s Taunton.​

“I was at Bromsgrove till the end of GCSEs and I just thought I needed a change. Dad had a look around, and obviously he knew Jos Buttler went to King’s so I joined there for sixth form. It was too far to go back [to Edgbaston] for academy training every Friday, and it was upsetting for me leaving my childhood club but I thought it was the right move in the end.Â

“There was nothing bad against Warwickshire, it was just too tricky for me to travel back every weekend.”​

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Just as Buttler sought to emulate AB de Villiers, South Africa’s keeper/batsman, Banton wants to emulate both of them. ​

“One of my idols is AB de Villiers, just the way he plays, how easy he makes it look. ​

“He doesn’t seem to face any dot balls and looking back that’s something I can improve on. With Jos, it’s the way he scores wherever he wants on the ground. He played hockey from a young age and I think that’s helped me a lot with my scoring 360 [degrees].”​

Only Babar Azam, Somerset’s overseas player, scored more than Banton’s 549 off 340 in this year’s T20 Vitality Blast – and Banton had a higher strike-rate than Pakistan’s stylist. He hit 23 sixes, the same as Aaron Finch and Eoin Morgan.​

Banton toured New Zealand a couple of winters ago, and played in the Under-19 World Cup quarter-final in Queenstown against Australia, who totalled only 127. Banton, opening for England, hit 58 in reply – but a leg-spinner called Lloyd Pope took eight wickets in nine overs to make England collapse. The next highest score was 11.​

As England’s finest white-ball wicketkeeper/batsman to date, Buttler has a few years yet. But emanating originally from a French vineyard, there might yet be a Vintage Banton 2024.


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