Lewis Gregory backs Tom Banton to excel at top level

Lewis Gregory has backed Somerset team-mate Tom Banton to flourish at the highest level despite another low score for the opener in England’s final warm-up before their Twenty20 series against New Zealand.

Banton amassed 549 runs at an average of 42.23 in the Vitality Blast this year and a further 454 at 41.27 in Somerset’s triumphant Royal London One-Day Cup campaign to earn selection for the five T20s against the Kiwis.

The 20-year-old bludgeoned his second ball in England colours for six but he has registered only 17 runs across England’s two practice matches, dismissed for six off nine balls in the eight-wicket defeat to a New Zealand XI in Lincoln on Tuesday.

He remains in contention to make his international bow and partner Jonny Bairstow at the top of the order for Friday’s opener in Christchurch in a format tailor-made for him, according to Gregory.

“I’m not sure there’s too much going on up top with Bants so I’m not sure he’s going to be too worried,” Gregory said.

“He had an absolutely fantastic Vitality Blast. I watched him in the nets the other day, he was striking it pretty well, so if that opportunity comes for him I’m sure he’ll take it.

“There’s no real ceiling on him. He hits the ball 360 (degrees), he’s not too worried about what’s coming at him and he’s inventive and powerful.

“This format is seriously suited towards him and I’ve no doubt he will succeed at the highest level.”

Gregory will also be targeting a first international appearance this week after catching the eye in Tuesday’s warm-up with an entertaining cameo of 29 not out from 11 balls at the back end of England’s innings.

The Somerset all-rounder added to the BBC’s Test Match Special: “I was expecting to be a little bit more nervous with the bat but when you’re going in with two and a half overs to go, it’s kind of ‘put your head down and swing as hard as you can’.

“It was a nice blowout and a nice experience.”

Gregory leaked 27 runs from his two overs and put down a difficult chance on the run off fellow newcomer Matt Parkinson as Colin Munro’s belligerent 107 not out from 57 balls saw the hosts overhaul England’s 188 for five with nine balls to spare.

Gregory added: “It’s obviously a really good surface and against some high-quality players, so if you miss your mark and you’re not quite on then they’re going to punish you.

“There’s a few things we’re going to have to tweak going into that first game but I’m sure the boys will have a couple of hard days’ hard practice and we’ll be raring to go.

“If I get an opportunity I’ll try to do what I’ve done at Somerset and see what happens. I’m 100 per cent backing my ability and hopefully I’ll get the nod.”

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