Even in his wildest dreams, George Garton would not have believed back in October that six months later he’d be top of Sussex’s early-season bowling averages.
The 18-year-old, who attended Hurstpierpoint College and plays for Horsham in the Sussex League, had just graduated from the county’s Academy to earn his first junior contract.
But after impressing on the the Potential England Performance Programme (PEPP) in South Africa, Garton, who made his England U-19 debut last summer, was chosen for the U-19 World Cup and played in their final two games.
After returning to Hove to prepare for the new season, he was upgraded to a full two-year contract and then took a wicket with his first ball in first-class cricket against Leeds/Bradford MCCU earlier this month.
Sussex had no worries about throwing him in for the Championship games against Northants and Essex, and the left-armer has responded with five wickets at 35.20.
Despite his slender frame, Garton generates good pace, swings the ball both ways and even hurried the England captain Alastair Cook on occasion during this week’s drawn game against Essex.
If Garton looks comfortable in his surroundings it’s hardly surprising. His father Glen played second XI cricket for Sussex and also sponsors the club. George regularly found himself in the dressing room at Hove with his Dad when Sussex were celebrating a succession of trophies a decade or so ago. George himself played for the county when he was 10 years old.
“I remember being at Lord’s in 2006 when Sussex won the C&G Trophy,” he said. “I guess that was the first time I got a passion for winning because I could see how much it meant to the players at the time.”
Garton expected to start this season in the second XI but Sussex’s bowling coach Jon Lewis was so impressed with the improvements he made during the winter that he was fast-tracked into the first team. He has adapted well to the rigours of the Championship but Sussex see him as a good option in T20 and 50 overs too. Lewis is particularly impressed with his ability to bowl at the death.
He agrees that he’s had to grow up quickly in the last few months. “I learned a lot at the U-19 World Cup,” he said. “About seven of the other players in the squad have first-class experience and I picked up a lot from them. Being able to showcase my ability on that stage gave me a lot of confidence.”
Garton has yet to produce with the bat for Sussex, but he does regard himself as an all-rounder. “In pre-season I have ticked over bowling-wise and put more of a focus on my batting,” he said.
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