24 December 2009.
Two splendid pieces of bowling by two fine prospects were the highlight of a hard-fought 50-over match between old rivals played on a helpful surface. Between them Josh Hazlewood and James Pattinson took a stack of wickets and thereby gave heart to those worried that the pace bowling stocks are running low. NSW has long captured the go-ahead spirit of Australian cricket. As much can be told from their bowling selections for this match.
Victoria have filled their team with seasoned campaigners but injuries forced them to promote Pattinson, Jon Holland and John Hastings and all have served them well. Queensland, too, has turned away from older professionals and gone in search of fresh blood and ambition. Both youngsters bowled with the utmost intent, forcing every batsman to work for his runs. Both bowled straight and hard and the game turned on the support provided by their comrades. Hazlewood was the miser, Pattinson the millionaire but both caught the eye as emerging talents. NSW might have dismissed the visitors for a cheaper total but held back after six wickets had fallen. Pattinson compounded their error with the sort of vibrant display expected from Peter Siddle, who was merely presentable.
Hazlewood was compelling. He took the new ball and did not let go till his allotment of overs had been completed. Throughout he kept things simple. Disdaining slower balls, bumpers, attempted yorkers and the other extras of the age, the fast-medium man from Tamworth concentrated on line and length.
Blessed with height, a sturdy frame and a strong body action, he did not so much deliver the ball as issue instructions. Mostly he swung the ball away from the bat but now and then he cut the leather back into the bat thereby imperilling pads and sticks. Throughout he kept the stitches upright. Throughout he was patient and controlled, unusual attributes in an age group inclined to place a premium on pace. The batsmen were given no respite. Accuracy is underestimated. Admittedly the pitch assisted seamers. Happily local curators have turned their backs on placid tracks. No guts no glory. Widespread fears about a summer of dreary front-foot cricket have been stilled as Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth offered pace and bounce. Now the SCG has woken up as well. Arguably it overdid it because the deck was greenish and ridged. Better that, though, than another run feast.
Hazlewood took two wickets and might have claimed a hatful. By the end of his stint the Victorians were hanging on grimly. At first, things did not go the tyro’s way. Mitchell Starc struck first as Chris Rogers omitted to move his feet and paid the penalty as a full delivery upset his timbers. The lofty left-armer claimed a second scalp as Andrew MacDonald cut and was brilliantly held at cover. Despite these scalps, Starc was below his best. Working off a shorter run, he sent down a mixture of good’uns and bad’uns.
Meanwhile Hazlewood plugged away unerringly. Even Brad Hodge found him a handful as he groped and edged an outswinger only to be let off by a cordon evidently incapable of catching a cold in Norway. David Hussey was not as fortunate and his sketchy innings ended as he snicked to the gloveman thereby rewarding the speedster for his metronomic work. Hodge did not long survive his lapse and his dismissal was unworthy. Ignoring his team’s perilous position, the senior man backed away with mayhem in mind only to find himself cramped as the ball cut into his body. Leather touched glove, finger was raised and Hodge left the SCG for the last time.
By now Hazlewood was in full flight. He was not so much making the ball talk as swear. Cameron White could not make head nor tail of him. Before long the paceman produced an off-cutter that trapped White plumb in front in everyone’s opinion except the relevant person’s. Next ball the Victorian edged a sitter to slip only to be reprieved. Thereafter the Vics managed to sit out the rest of the paceman’s spell and then began to build their total against lesser lights.
The match seemed to be over. No one told Pattinson. The 19-year-old produced two stirring spells that brought his team back into the contest. NSW helped with some careless strokes, with David Warner the worst offender. Overall it was a terrific day for Australian cricket. Neither Hazlewood’s nor Pattinson’s contribution looked like a flash in the pan. It is important to perform at this level day after day, year upon year. That is the next challenge.