Pope's rapid rise up Aussie ranks
April 25, 2017
Australia's boom young leg-spinner continues to overcome each new challenge put to him
Emerging leg-spinner Lloyd Pope stands out for a couple of reasons.
He’s a bit of a character - or maybe a bit of a pest, depending on which teammate you ask. He loves celebrating a wicket. Then there’s the flowing red hair.
But what has stood out the most over the past 12 months is how the 17-year-old has taken on every new challenge thrown his way, and excelled repeatedly.
Leading wicket-taker at the under-17 championships. Tick.
Leading wicket-taker at the under-19 championships. Tick.
Leading wicket-taker for Australia Under-19s against Sri Lanka Under-19s. Tick.
So it’s no surprise that the talented teenager from South Australia with a big-spinning leg-break - and a wrong-un that has befuddled some of the very best of Australia and Sri Lanka’s rising stars - is considered one of the most exciting prospects coming through the Cricket Australia Pathways system.
"It’s nice to get a few results," Pope said, on the back of the series against Sri Lanka Under-19s.
"It’s taking each game as it comes, assessing the conditions and every pitch, and just making a little adjustment every single game.
"Bowling to different batsmen has been a good challenge and I’ve really enjoyed it."
Pope was the epitome of consistency during the six-match series against Sri Lanka Under-19s in Hobart, picking up three wickets in each of the five games he played in.
He bowled the most overs of any Australian (60.2) for the series, finishing with 15 wickets at an average of 16.2 - and a strike rate of one wicket every 24 balls.
And he had a happy knack of picking up a wicket in the first over of a spell, or when his team needed one - highlighted particularly by his three crucial breakthroughs in two overs at the backend of the 5th Youth ODI, as Sri Lanka threatened to chase down 245.
"I’d take it at the start (the consistent three-wicket hauls)," Pope said.
"Obviously I probably would have liked to have converted some of them (into five-wicket hauls).
"(It was an) awesome experience to see how they’ve played. They played spin really well, and some of batters - obviously Daniel - stood up and made a few fifties and things. It was interesting to see how they played the game, but a really good challenge bowling to them."
But while the individual reward was nice for Pope, it was the team’s performance overall that he was most pleased with.
"To get the 4-1 series win is way more important, and it’s great to see the boys getting some form going into the World Cup," he said.
"Jack Edwards is scoring a bucket-load of runs, and so is Param Uppal, Zak Evans is bowling the house down. It’s been a really good team performance overall."
As a kid, Pope and his family moved around a little bit, before settling in South Australia, where he’s played all his cricket since for Kensington Cricket Club.
And he’s transformed from a youngster who used to bowl some seam-ups, rising all the way up the ranks to be the club’s second-leading 1st Grade wicket-taker this summer.
"I used to bowl a bit of medium pace, I played a bit of soccer and I didn’t really know what I was going to do in terms of cricket," Pope said.
"My Dad encouraged me to bowl a few leggies.
"He saw that I turned the ball and I guess it just progressed from there.
"He encouraged me to bowl it in a game. I was a bit skeptical, and then I took some wickets in my first game and it gave me a bit of confidence to keep going.
"We came to SA and I started playing for Kensington and they’ve really helped me throughout my cricket career. I’ve progressed right through the ranks there, from the juniors to playing in the 1st Grade. It’s amazing to learn from some of the players they’ve got there."
The switch to spin is a decision that’s paid dividends time and time again for Pope.
After representing South Australia’s Under-17s, and the Cricket Australia XI at the Under-19 championships, Pope had the chance to bowl on the SCG in the Pathways BBL Curtain Raiser for the Ponting XII, before picking the brains of Australian legend Shane Warne and West Indies T20 gun Samuel Badree.
The next reward looks likely to be the upcoming Under-19 World Cup, next January in New Zealand.
You could argue his flights are booked after a phenomenal summer, but the level-headed youngster is keeping a lid on things, and looking forward to a well-deserved break before setting his sights on next season.
"I’m not really thinking about it too much. It’s a long way in the distance."