Dynamic quicks, gifted glovemen, blossoming all-rounders and old-school opening batsmen are among a raft of young cricketers to keep an eye on when the second half of the Sheffield Shield season begins on Friday.
Here are six players aged 25 or younger that I’m keen to follow in the Shield.
Bryce Street – 22, Queensland, opening batsman
Street is an old-fashioned, grafting batsman whose priority is to blunt the new ball, a task that is especially important for Queensland, who are based on the liveliest pitch in the country at the Gabba.
So far he has excelled in this role. While his record of 285 runs at 35 in his debut Shield season looks solid but unremarkable, what is more relevant is that he’s faced 116 balls per dismissal.
That means that, on average, it has taken the opposition about three hours to get rid of Street. Among the top 20 run-scorers this Shield season, only three batsmen have faced more balls per dismissal than Street – Shaun Marsh (141 balls), Matt Wade (132 balls) and Nic Maddinson (120 balls).
Wes Agar – 23, SA, fast bowler
Best known as being the little brother of Australian limited-overs spinner Ashton Agar, this attacking right-arm quick has had a breakout summer in all three formats.
Agar began this season with a terrific campaign in the domestic one-day cup, grabbing 11 wickets at 20 from just five matches, including two five-wicket hauls. This white-ball form flowed over into the BBL, in which he grabbed 17 wickets at 21.
Meanwhile, he is equal-second on the Shield wicket-takers’ table, with 23 wickets at 21 from five matches.
Agar is a natural strike bowler. He has good pace, having been clocked at up to 148kmh, earns steepling bounce thanks to his 192cm height, possesses a sharp bouncer and likes to pitch the red ball up in search of lateral movement.
Tom Andrews – 25, SA, spin all-rounder
This left-arm finger spinner initially earned his place in the SA Shield side thanks to his bowling, which allowed the Redbacks to play up to four specialist quicks at times.
But it is his batting that has come to the fore, with Andrews scoring his debut first-class ton this season, and owning a solid record of 423 runs at 33 from his ten red-ball matches.
An aggressive middle-order batsman, Andrews scores at a swift rate and likes to take on both the quicks and the spinners. With the ball he favours accuracy over sharp turn, similar to the likes of fellow left-armers Steve O’Keefe and Ashton Agar.
Given his all-round responsibilities, he has done a serviceable job with the ball for SA in his Shield career, taking 24 wickets at 42.
Josh Inglis – 24, WA, wicketkeeper-batsman
Inglis has begun to attract some hype thanks to his audacious stroke play as an opener in the BBL. He is also a very promising long-form cricketer.
Inglis had his first poor Shield season last summer, averaging just 21 across ten matches. But he has otherwise been a consistent contributor with the bat for WA and is also an excellent gloveman.
His keeping is so impressive, in fact, that Test captain Tim Paine recently described him as the purest young gloveman in Australia. Inglis is clearly rated highly by the Australian hierarchy, having been picked in a stacked Australia A side to face the England Lions in a four-day match at the MCG this month.
Daniel Solway – 24, NSW, top-order batsman
Solway has been a consistently excellent batsman in Sydney first grade cricket for years now, yet had to watch as he was leapfrogged by batsmen like Jason Sangha and Jack Edwards picked for NSW on potential over performance.
This season he was finally handed a Shield cap and has proceeded to peel off 262 runs at 65. Solway made a remarkable debut, scoring 133* as the rest of the NSW top six collapsed, leaving the side 5-107 against a good SA attack featuring Chadd Sayers, Wes Agar and Nick Winter. That turned out to be a match-winning knock as the Blues triumphed in this low-scoring game.
Solway then displayed his versatility by moving from number three to opener in his next match, and scoring 65 against the new ball versus WA.
Riley Meredith – 23, Tasmania, fast bowler
Meredith has some very high-profile fans, with Australian legends Ricky Ponting and Shane Warne both vocal supporters of the express quick from Tasmania. Ponting recently listed Meredith alongside Will Pucovski, Cameron Green, and Jake Fraser-McGurk as the four most impressive young players in the Australian domestic scene.
The hyper-aggressive Meredith has had a very good summer so far, taking 11 wickets at 25 in the one-day cup, ten wickets at 13 in the BBL, and 20 wickets at 28 in the Shield. While he needs to improve his precision and economy, Meredith has a rare ability to produce wicket-taking deliveries, even on the flattest of pitches. Able to bowl at up to 152kmh, Meredith has the kind of pace that can worry even elite international batsmen.