Also keep an eye out for a left-arm seamer named Johnson, and the BBL’s Player of the Tournament
With the Ashes in the rearview mirror, the focus for Australia’s men’s teams now switches to white-ball cricket, and most significantly, the build-up to the ODI World Cup. But there are also three T20Is against South Africa which will start to form plans for next year’s World Cup in West Indies and the USA. Among two squads named on Monday, there were four uncapped players who will have the opportunity to stake their claims against South Africa and India.
(T20I and ODI squad)
Mitchell Marsh, Cameron Green and now Aaron Hardie. Australia are being well served by allrounders from Western Australia. Hardie has pushed his claims strongly with red and white ball. Initially it was in four-day cricket where he caught the attention, hitting an unbeaten 174 in the 2021-22 Sheffield Shield final against Victoria to steer Western Australia to the title.
Although he struggled to quite hit those heights last summer, he struck a century for Australia A against New Zealand in April. However, he also had a breakout campaign in the BBL for Perth Scorchers where he was the tournament’s leading run-scorer having found a new home at No. 3. His pace bowling is useful with a first-class average under 30.
“One of the silver linings of not being able to bowl much in last year’s Big Bash was it allowed him the opportunity to bat up the order,” chair of selectors George Bailey said. “We saw how destructive he was batting a three for the Scorchers - and think he’s batted everywhere from three to seven - [and] he’s got some good power. So whether that role is in finishing off an innings with his power hitting or he does get an opportunity a little higher up the order, we’ll see.
“We make no secret of the fact we like our one-day team to have a number of guys who can bat in the top seven who can bowl some overs. It gives you the ability to structure up differently.”
Time for another Australian left-arm quick named Johnson? Twenty-seven-year-old Spencer Johnson is one of the most fascinating stories currently in the game. He has enjoyed a rapid rise up the pecking order after impressing for Brisbane Heat in his first full BBL season where his ability at the death stood out, holding his nerve in consecutive games against Hobart Hurricanes and Melbourne Stars.
He then claimed his best figures of 3 for 28 in the Challenger against Sydney Sixers. He rounded out the season with impressive returns for South Australia in the Sheffield Shield and went on the A tour to New Zealand.
That all came after battling a recurring stress fracture in his foot, which first occurred on his debut for South Australia in 2017, and left him fighting for his professional career. “It was just such a rare bone to get a stress fracture in,” he told Cricinfo earlier this year.
“There was no evidence that [surgery] would work but after 12 months of it not healing, it was the only option to try and put in a couple of screws.”
He is viewed as a potential replacement for Mitchell Starc when he begins to wind up his white-ball career after the ODI and T20 World Cups, and there could be more beyond that. “Spencer is on the radar for all formats, he’s a pretty exciting talent,” Bailey said. “There’s some genuine pace there, a pretty handy skillset in being able to swing the ball. It is always nice when you have someone bowling left-arm, it’s just a little bit different and can add some real variety to your attack.
“First and foremost we’ll get a really good look at him in the T20 series, which is probably the format he’s played the most. But the little bit we’ve seen of him in one-day cricket and even four-day cricket, we like that skillset as well, so he’s one we are keen to invest a bit of time into.”
Tanveer Sangha (ODI squad)
It is close to a year since Tanveer Sangha, the 21-year-old legspinner, last played cricket. He missed the entire 2022-23 Australian domestic season with a stress fracture of his back, but the Australia selectors have certainly not forgotten him. To the extent that he is only a couple of selection calls away from making the final ODI World Cup squad despite having just five List A matches to his name.
When fit, Sangha has put his name up in lights in the BBL for Sydney Thunder with a 21-wicket haul in 2020-21 earning him a place on a T20 tour of New Zealand. He followed that with a further 16 wickets in the 2021-22 BBL before his injury-enforced layoff.
“He’s been on our radar for a long time,” Bailey said. “His Big Bash form when he’s been fit has been excellent so he’s one that we are really impressed with. The common comment around Tanveer is that is he’s very mature on the field and a great thinker about how he goes about it. He had an unfortunate injury last year which meant he lost a bit of a game-time but the age he is, and the skillset he has, I don’t think that’s going to set him back much.”
Matthew Short was the BBL’s Player of the Tournament last season after scoring 458 runs and taking 11 wickets for Adelaide Strikers, backing up a 2021-22 campaign where he had made 493 runs. His standout performance came against Hobart Hurricanes where his unbeaten 100 from 59 balls carried Strikers to a record chase of 230.
On the back of those returns, Short was picked up as a replacement player by Punjab Kings in the IPL although he found the going tougher with 117 runs in six innings. However, he recently made 80 off 50 balls playing for Washington Freedom in MLC and on Sunday struck 73 off 36 balls for Northern Superchargers in the Hundred.
With David Warner and Cameron Green, who were Australia’s previous T20 opening pair last November, rested for the South Africa tour, and Aaron Finch retired, Short has a strong chance of finding himself alongside Steven Smith at the top of the order. With Adam Zampa the only frontline spinner, Short’s offspin will also likely be called on. He has often bowled with the new ball in the BBL. –Cricinfo