Victorious U19s eye 2018 World Cup
April 25, 2017
After a successful series against Sri Lanka, Australia's next generation are full of confidence leading into new year's World Cup
It’s not too hard to imagine that the brains trust behind Australia’s 2018 ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup campaign would be quietly pleased with what they’ve witnessed in Hobart over the past three weeks.
Four wins from five matches, a drawn three-day match that would likely have been a win - had rain not intervened on day two - and a host of impressive individual performers were the key takeaways from the Australia Under-19s six-game series against Sri Lanka Under-19s.
Quick Single: Australia v Sri Lanka Under-19s tour results
With the likes of National Talent Manager Greg Chappell, National Performance Program head coach Troy Cooley and Pathways Manager Graham Manou watching on, plus coach Matthew Elliott and assistant coach Ryan Harris, Australia’s future stars got the job done.
And all but one member of the squad - ‘keeper Lewin Maladay - will remain eligible for the World Cup in New Zealand in January-February 2018.
Three batsmen scored tons. Seven scored half centuries. Two bowlers took multiple four-wicket hauls. Another picked up three wickets - on four separate occasions.
The road ahead looks rosy for the country’s next generation.
Among the stars with the bat were joint Players of the Series, Jack Edwards and Param Uppal, both from New South Wales.
Edwards, a tall right-hander who moves the game forward quickly, scored his ton in the three-day game, finishing with a series-high tally of 273 runs at an average of 54.6. Uppal, one of three co-captains within the squad and a classy right-handed stroke-maker, made a century in the first Youth ODI, on his way to 210 runs at an average of 42.
Austin Waugh produced a match-winning half century under pressure, to go with a couple of 40s, co-captain Will Sutherland passed 50 once and fell just short on another occasion in a number of entertaining middle-order cameos, and Jonathan Merlo showed his class on his way to an unbeaten century in partnership with Edwards in the three-day match.
NSW Blues rookie and co-captain Jason Sangha, Queensland Bulls rookie Max Bryant, and Matthew Spoors also raised the bat in the final match of the series.
With the ball, wicket-taking leg-spinner Lloyd Pope stood out - not just for his hair, which has gathered plenty of attention - but with 15 wickets at an average of 16.2 for the series, including four three-wicket hauls during the one-day matches.
After being the leading wicket-taker at the Under-17 and Under-19 national carnivals last season, Pope made the step up to the next level with ease.
Out-and-out quicks Zak Evans and Ryan Hadley picked up 12 and 10 wickets respectively, while first-change bowler Will Sutherland showcased his all-round skills, with 10 wickets alongside his 160 runs.
Despite all the individual successes, perhaps the most pleasing sign is the way the Australians approached the series.
Three changes were made for every match, forcing alterations to batting orders, bowling plans and even fielding positions.
Edwards made runs opening, at three and at five. The youngest player in the squad, he made the most runs and only played four of six matches.
Hadley and Evans took turns at taking four-wicket hauls - splitting five between them - with Hadley’s bounce and Evans’ whippy action complementing each other nicely.
Different players took turns at standing tall in challenging situations, including Edwards, who came in at 3-45 on the opening morning of the series, before smashing a century and setting the tone for the series.
Or Sutherland and Pope, who each picked up two wickets in two balls to halt Sri Lanka at crucial stages in their run chase on the final afternoon of the series.
The better news is that for all the success of this squad, which is likely to form the basis of the World Cup group, there is plenty of talent waiting in the wings - and more than eight months for those players to stake their claims for selections.
A new wicketkeeper will need to be found, to replace Maladay, while Western Australia rookie Cameron Green - who shot onto the scene with a spectacular Sheffield Shield debut this summer - Queensland Bulls rookie Xavier Bartlett - who played for the CA XI in the Matador BBQs Cup and against South Africa - and Queensland all-rounder Harrison Wood - who didn’t face Sri Lanka due to injury - headline a long list of names who didn’t play in this series, but will be eligible for World Cup selection.
Throw in Victorian young gun Mitch Perry, who flew to Hobart with the squad and did’t play a game due to injury, but is still just 16 years of age.
And there’s still the Under-19 National Championships, generally played in early December, for someone to follow in the footsteps of a Will Pucovski and make runs for fun and put their name front and centre for a gig.
It’s an exciting time to be a young cricketer.