Solving Australia’s Batting Woes!

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Will Pucovski (243) and Josh Phillipe (41 & 104) were amongst the runs in the opening round of 2018-19 Sheffield Shield matches. It was good to see young batsman such as Sam Heazlett and Will Bosisto in their respective state XIs as well, even if they didn’t quite churn out Pucovskiesque innings. Question marks still linger over much of Australia’s batting line-up, what with Shaun Marsh’s inconsistency, Mitchell Marsh batting far too high at times and Usman Khawaja (Now injured) and Aaron Finch both needing to back-up encouraging performances against Pakistan in UAE, Pucovski could well have put himself to the front of the selection queue. With Peter Handscomb having fallen away horribly after a promising start to his Test career and Glenn Maxwell clearly not fancied by the selection panel, the twenty-year-old Victorian’s path to the national XI is being cleared of obstacles.

Another player that peaked interest in the opening round of this year’s Shield was leg-spinner Lloyd Pope. Not all that long ago, Pope terrorised England at the Under-19 World Cup with an eight-wicket haul that went viral. In truth, aside from that match-winning performance he had a quiet tournament. His maiden First Class wicket, trapping Steve O’Keefe LBW, saw him go viral again even though his two wickets cost in excess of a hundred runs. It was extremely alarming however to see the reaction of the Australian media. Labelling Pope as the “New Warne” is surely both unnecessary and unoriginal.

Back to batting and another player who could possibly solve Australia’s batting problems… Meg Lanning. There are some that say there’s no need to suggest women cricketers aim to play in men’s teams and that women’s cricket is a good enough sport on in its own right. I’m not necessarily suggesting that run-express Lanning represent her country’s men’s team but it’s worth pointing out just how good she is. Still only twenty-six, she has in excess of 3000 ODI runs from just 68 matches. She averages north of 53 with twelve tons and eleven fifties. She’s fresh off the back of another hundred against Pakistan in Kuala Lumpur.

It’ll be interesting to see just how much Lanning can achieve in her international career and who lines up for Australia’s men’s team come next year’s Ashes encounter in England.

Six to Watch: T20I Status – Men’s Special

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From 1st January 2019, all Associate cricket nations will have full T20 International status. These are really exciting times for cricketers as well as fans throughout the globe. As I do each year when the county season comes around, I’ve identified six players to keep an eye on as T20 Internationals start to be played out across the world.

Simon Ateak (Ghana)

24-year-old Ghanaian Simon Ateak was Player of the Tournament at the 2018 ICC World Twenty20 African Sub Regional (North-Western) Qualifier. Ateak notched back-to-back fifties against Sierra Leone and Nigeria in Lagos. Ateak had actually been in poor form in ICC World Cricket League Division Five prior to the T20 Qualifier but delivered when needed to help Ghana reach the finals. Simon’s younger brother Vincent also chipped in with the ball during the Qualifier.

Harrison Carlyon (Jersey)

Still only seventeen-years-old, Jersey’s Harrison Carlyon made his international debut against Oman in Los Angeles at the tender age of just fifteen. The off-spinner’s father and uncle have both represented the island’c cricket team and injuries even meant that father and son turned out for the same side. Carlyon has since appeared for Jersey U-19s and made some useful contributions in ICC World Cricket League Division Four. He’s also been in and around the youth set ups at Sussex CCC.

Ahmad Faiz (Malaysia)

How about this for form: 50, 86, 20, 47, 45 & 50. Those were the batting contributions of Malaysian skipper Ahmad Faiz in ICC World Cricket League Division Four earlier this year. The right-handed batsman clearly enjoys the surface in Kuala Lumpur. Admittedly those were one-day matches and his T20 form beforehand wasn’t quite as strong but Malaysia will be relying on their former U-19 World Cup captain when it comes to run-getting.

Andrew Mansale (Vanuatu)

Andrew Mansale is Vanuatu’s experienced leader, having debuted for his country when just fifteen years of age. Now 29 and having gained experience of playing club cricket in Australia, Vanuatu will be looking to Mansale’s leadership as well as his right-hand batting and off-spin to help them rise to prominence in T20I cricket. Joshua Rasu, another right-hand bat who has played for the same Australian club as Mansale is another Ni-Vanuatu worth looking out for.

Calum MacLeod (Scotland)

Scotland’s Calum McLeod already has 28 T20I caps as well as double that amount of appearances in ODI Cricket where, for the record, he’s notched an impressive six centuries. His attacking nature was imperative in Scotland qualifying for the 2015 ODI World Cup and there were glimpses of his talent at the ICC World Cup Qualifier in March of this year. As with many Scots, he’s been around the English county second XI circuit, most recently representing Hampshire.

Carl Sandri (Italy)

34-year-old Carl Sandri’s experience will be vital if Italy are to develop as a T20I nation. Australian born Sandri, a right-hand bat and off-spin bowler represented Sydney Thunder in the 2013 edition of the Big Bash. He was Italy’s leading wicket taker in the most recent ICC World Cricket League Division Five. Peter Petricola, who has played alongside Sandri in Ozzie club cricket, is another old head that Italy will look at to spearhead their efforts.

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Elsewhere, could county players such as Middlesex’s Ollie Rayner (Germany) and Gloucestershire’s Benny Howell (France) be eligible to represent the countries of their birth?

Could Hampshire’s Gareth ‘Ice’ Berg return to the Italian side alongside Sandri and Petricola having played with them six years ago? Berg claimed figures of 4-20 against Uganda and scored 47 against Namibia in 2012 ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier in UAE. He’s been an underrated performer on the English county circuit (First Class, List A, T20) for a number of years.

If USA can sort out their political infighting, could Durham’s Cameron Steel or Hampshire’s Ian Holland represent the Stars and Stripes in T20I Cricket? It seems inconceivable that USA aren’t a cricketing nation to be reckoned with.

Once T20I status has really taken ahold, look out for future posts to see how Ateak, Carlyon, Faiz, Mansale, McLeod and Sandri have got on… and who I should have previewed!

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In the near future, I’ll also be compiling a Six to Watch for the T20I Women’s game as well as a team special. Be sure to look out for those posts soon.