It has crept up, as it always seems to. In just over a week the Matador One-Day Cup commences in Sydney, and what an intriguing little tournament it should be.
This is the third year now of the revised competition with every match being played in Sydney, with a match almost every day right through October to see who will be crowned domestic one-day champions.
A slight positive twist this season sees the Cricket Australia XI competing as a seventh side; a newly composed squad of young talented players and uncontracted state players, as they look to gain exposure against the big boys.
I have compiled a brief analysis on the seven squad’s expectations this season.
New South Wales
Table finish last season: Third
The Blues pushed the Warriors all the way after making the final in last year’s tournament but it wasn’t enough in the end. They will be looking to this season with plenty of optimism boasting a pretty strong squad with a wealth of international experience.
Young batsmen in Nic Maddinson and Kurtis Patterson provide excitement, while the old head of Ed Cowan, who has made the move back to his original state for one season, provides temperament. Shane Watson’s retirement from Test cricket is also a gain for the Blues with the 59-Test veteran able to play this tournament in its entirety. Moises Henriques had a damaging campaign last season, and should again be a big influence as captain.
Squad: Moises Henriques (c), Sean Abbott, Doug Bollinger, Ryan Carters, Ed Cowan, Ryan Gibson, Chris Green, Josh Hazlewood, Josh Lalor, Nic Maddinson, Kurtis Patterson, Ben Rohrer, Gurinder Sandhu.
Last season: Second
If the Bulls want to have a reasonably successful showing like they did last year, a lot of guys have to stand up. Whether it be some of the young and largely untried batsmen and quicks, or the guys that have been around for a while, on paper the Queensland squad looks a little raw and imbalanced, despite containing some quality cricketers.
Their plight is not helped by missing arguably their three best batsman in Joe Burns, Usman Khawaja and Chris Lynn. Burns and Khawaja are away on international duty in Bangladesh, with the latter proving to be one of the best Australian 50-over domestic batsmen over the last three years. For Lynn, an awkward and obscure shoulder injury just this week means he will miss this tournament.
Peter Forrest will take Lynn’s place as the stand-in skipper. To assist him, the experience and leadership of both James Hopes and Chris Hartley will undoubtedly be called upon.
Squad: Peter Forrest (c), Cameron Boyce, Ben Cutting, Luke Feldman, Chris Hartley, Charlie Memphrey, James Hopes, Marnus Labuschagne, Simon Milenko, Michael Neser, Nathan Reardon, Billy Stanlake, Mark Steketee.
Last season: Sixth
Young up-and-coming top order batsman Travis Head leads this Redbacks side in what appears a largely inexperienced squad loaded with potential. Many pundits may be seeing some of these names for the first time.
All-rounder Nick Winter impressed many playing for the Melbourne Renegades in the Big Bash League last summer, while Tom Andrews is a little known 20-year-old spin bowler who will be hungry for an opportunity. Can this side shape up and improve on last year’s disappointing competition where they salvaged just one victory?
Callum Ferguson will definitely need some help with the bat, the right-hander shouldered a heavy load last season often playing a lone hand, compiling some classy knocks even when his partners weren’t offering much support. Tom Cooper is an experienced domestic and international player who will also have a crucial role in the middle order. They will have a strong bowling attack, led by Kane Richardson and complemented by young leggie Adam Zampa who has a bright future ahead.
Squad: Travis Head (c), Tom Andrews, Tom Cooper, Callum Ferguson, Jake Lehmann, Tim Ludeman, Joe Mennie, Gary Putland, Kane Richardson, Sam Raphael, Alex Ross, Daniel Worrall, Nick Winter, Adam Zampa.
Last season: Fourth
Is this squad balanced enough? I’m not quite sure, but there is definitely no excuse for the Tigers not to win a few matches and compete – there are some fine cricketers on display in their side.
The captain George Bailey needs no introduction about his limited-overs prowess, he forms a batting line-up with guys like Alex Doolan and Tim Paine – all with international cricket under their belt. And how could we forget the blistering double century scored by Ben Dunk last season? Watch out for him at the top of the order; he too has played some T20 cricket in Australian colours.
Young guns Jake Doran and Hamish Kingston should impress, and if Jackson Bird can play every game he looms as a frightening task for batsmen. Don’t expect to see James Faulkner in the action much though as he heads to Bangladesh to replace the once again injured Pat Cummins.
Squad: George Bailey (c), Alex Doolan, Jackson Bird, Xavier Doherty, Jake Doran, Ben Dunk, James Faulkner, Evan Gulbis, Hamish Kingston, Ryan Lees, Dominic Michael, Tim Paine, Sam Rainbird, Clive Rose.
Last season: Fifth
We will forgive Victoria as they went on win the Sheffield Shield, however one of the most dominant 50-over domestic sides battled last year managing just two wins from their seven matches. There really is no reason why they can’t give this tournament a real shake this time, there is obvious quality in the group.
Almost all of their squad has represented Australia in some form, and the inclusion of promising all-rounder and winner of TV’s Cricket Superstar Ian Holland adds some unknown excitement to the piece.
They boast a lethal pace attack in James Pattinson, John Hastings and Clint McKay, assuming they can all play together, and with names like Aaron Finch, Matthew Wade, Peter Handscomb, Rob Quiney, Dan Christian and Cameron White, you have some serious batting firepower right through the top six or seven.
Victoria are yet to win this competition since it’s tweaking in 2013, and had a very successful period in it prior to then. Can this be their year? They look solid on paper, but they did disappoint last season. Interesting times ahead.
Squad: Matthew Wade (c), Fawad Ahmed, Scott Boland, Dan Christian, Aaron Finch, Peter Handscomb, John Hastings, Ian Holland, Jon Holland, Clint McKay, James Pattinson, Rob Quiney, Marcus Stoinis, Cameron White.
Last season: First (winner)
Last season was a very productive one for the Warriors, and it included taking out the title in this tournament. I mentioned how Victoria are every chance this season with the squad at hand, but if there’s one thing getting in their way, it is Michael Klinger’s boys from the west.
What I love the most about this squad are the pace bowlers. Oh boy. Jason Behrendorff and Joel Paris, the two left-armers who can better 140km/h and swing the ball have international futures, Nathan Coulter-Nile has made a name for himself as a limited-overs paceman and the ever reliable Nathan Rimmington just seems to keep on giving.
Western Australia are well led by the experienced Klinger, and while their batting line-up is actually quite young it is stacked with talent. Marcus Harris, Tom Beaton and keeper Sam Whiteman could all have big tournaments.
Ashton Turner came as a surprise as the vice captain but he clearly has a good head on his shoulders, and his namesake, Ashton Agar’s inclusion, means the Warriors have two young gun all-rounders at their disposal. Andrew Tye seriously improved as a bowler last summer, and after spending a few years with Tasmania they gladly have the service of pocket rocket opener Jonathan Wells.
Squad: Michael Klinger (c), Ashton Turner, Ashton Agar, Tom Beaton, Jason Behrendorff, Will Bosisto, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Marcus Harris, Simon Mackin, Joel Paris, Nathan Rimmington, Andrew Tye, Jonathon Wells, Sam Whiteman.
Cricket Australia XI
Last season: N/A
A breathe of fresh air into the competition, the CA XI will certainly put up a fight. But it really isn’t about the win-loss tally for this young group. The benefit of including this side means up-and-coming talented youth can get exposure to domestic cricket and possibly fastrack their career at the top grade.
And there are certainly some players to keep on your radar for the future here.
James Perison and Ben McDermott are two young keeper-batsmen with big raps on their cricket, McDermott having switched to Tasmania after being at Queensland with his brother. He was not however included by the Tigers in this tournament, though the outlook is good for both of these boys.
Both Hilton Cartwright and Matt Dixon have played domestic cricket for the Warriors in the past and will be out to prove they deserve a contract. Seb Gotch is a highly rated Victorian who turned down a spot on an AFL list to pursuit a cricket career. Jhye Richardson appears a player to watch – the 19-year-old a quick right-arm paceman who is more than capable with the blade.
Their squad contains several other exciting youngsters, and we should get a look at most of them over the course of the tournament. Make no mistake, this young side will compete and many will impress, so keep a keen eye out for the CA XI, the new addition to the Matador Cup.
Squad: Alex Gregory (c), Sam Heazlett, James Peirson, Ben McDermott, James Bazley, Seb Gotch, Matthew Short, Jack Wildermuth, Jhye Richardson, Liam Hatcher, Mitch Swepson, Hilton Cartwright, Riley Ayre, Matthew Dixon.
I hope we see an exciting tournament, if there is one way to force your way into the Australian ODI side, it all starts with performing in the Matador Cup.
It’s the early opening to a big summer of cricket, and with matches live on GEM, the thought of the summer of cricket beginning in just 10 days is rather pulsating.