George Garton reflected on an up-and-down summer that included his first senior England call-up and testing positive for Covid-19 after propelling Southern Brave into the final of The Hundred.
The left-arm seamer claimed a trio of key wickets in the men’s eliminator as the Brave skittled Trent Rockets for 96 from 91 deliveries, then overhauled a paltry target with seven wickets and 32 balls to spare at the Kia Oval.
Birmingham Phoenix await in the Lord’s showpiece on Saturday evening after Garton’s heroics, just a few short weeks after being among the England group that had to self-isolate ahead of the one-day series against Pakistan.
Garton, who had been given his maiden England call-up for the preceding series against Sri Lanka without making his international debut, was then struck down by coronavirus, with some severe symptoms in the first few days.
“To be recognised and called up (by England) meant a hell of a lot to me and my family as well,” said 24-year-old Garton. “To then get the bad news that we all had to isolate because of Covid wasn’t ideal.
“It was a pretty down time for me, being stuck at home for two weeks. Then coming straight into The Hundred, basically still having the effects of Covid, it’s why I missed the second game because of it.
“The doctors have been brilliant helping me, for that first week I felt the effects pretty strongly so they were brilliant helping me get through it and get back to feeling 100 per cent as quickly as possible.
“Trying to recover from that then hit the ground running and try to rely on a bit of luck and natural ability here and there, it seems to be coming good towards the end.”
With Jofra Archer out of T20 World Cup contention because of an elbow injury, Garton sent a nudge to the England selectors with the important wickets of Dawid Malan, Alex Hales and D’Arcy Short on the big stage.
“To get those three key players was a very good feeling,” said Garton, who insisted he is not concerning himself with whether this improves his chances of being selected again by England.
“My job as a cricketer is to go out there and put in the best performance I can and the selections are certainly above my pay grade. All I’m focused on is doing the best I can for whoever I’m playing with.
“If I get recognised for it, brilliant, but it’s certainly not something I think about. We’re in the final of The Hundred, I think if my mind is anywhere else other than the final then I’m probably thinking of the wrong things.”
Garton’s three-wicket haul left the Rockets on 31 for four after the 25-ball powerplay, a position they could not recover from. Tymal Mills mentioned as a T20 World Cup bolter by England captain Eoin Morgan chipped in with three for eight from his 16 deliveries while there were two wickets apiece for Craig Overton and Chris Jordan.
Paul Stirling’s 31 from 19 balls got the Brave off to a flyer in their pursuit while captain James Vince led his side over the line with an unbeaten 45 from 27 deliveries.
Rockets paceman Marchant De Lange took a couple of wickets, including South Africa compatriot Quinton de Kock, but ultimately the inability of the Trent batsmen to put up a competitive total left their bowlers with too much to do.
“It’s pretty obvious we didn’t get enough runs,” said De Lange. “Unfortunately we didn’t have a person to get through on the batting side. But these games happen, it was our worst one, unfortunately it wasn’t the group.
“It’s difficult as soon as you lose a wicket to keep momentum, especially in the short format. You’re always under pressure if you face two or three balls and you haven’t scored runs. We just never kicked on.
“It’s part of the game. On the day we weren’t good enough. We’d have loved to go all the way through to Lord’s and the final but maybe next year.”