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Breaking down the young talent in Australian cricket

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Roar Guru
5th November, 2020
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1821 Reads

After three rounds of the Sheffield Shield, there has been plenty of excitement as a result of some big performances from young players across the states.

Other than a couple of obvious names, there has been doubt about the quality of youth coming through the state systems that can have an impact for Australia.

What domestic cricket has shown, however, is that each state is handing out opportunities to the players they see as exciting young talents, and giving them a platform to perform on.

The Big Bash League has fast-tracked young players into prominent spots over the past couple of seasons, and with five-wicket hauls and centuries being recorded in South Australia, the payoff is great and immediate for states.

Not everyone will be familiar with all the new names that have featured in domestic cricket over the past couple of seasons, and they’re well worth exploring.

This is a summary of the players 23 years of age and below that have either featured in the Sheffield Shield, Marsh Cup or the Big Bash League that are burgeoning talents or established figures for their respective teams.

This can be used as a resource to get a quick idea on what each player can provide, with a view on their future prospects.

There are plenty of names to remember, and domestic cricket lovers will be following them for years to come.

Batsmen

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Will Pucovski (Victoria) – 22 years old
A graceful and calculated batsman who can seemingly bat anywhere in the top four, Pucovski is already on the international radar, having been included in the Test squad in 2019. Fresh off an astonishing 255*, which incredibly is his second double century, Pucovski’s Sheffield Shield average now sits at 62.43. Pucovski is a prodigious talent who won’t fly under the radar much longer.

Will Pucovski of Victoria celebrates his double century during day two of the Sheffield Shield match between Western Australia and Victoria at the WACA on October 17, 2018 in Perth, Australia.

(Photo: Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Future prospects: Health prevailing, Pucovski will be in the Test squad again in 2021.

Oliver Davies (New South Wales) – 20 years old
Davies is yet to play state cricket in any form, but should do so soon. The talented batsman already made headlines as a junior cricketer with an over full of sixes and a double century scored at a strike rate of 200. There isn’t much limiting Davies in the future.

Future prospects: A BBL debut for the Thunder is likely in BBL10, and a New South Wales debut should follow soon after. Davies will play for Australia by the end of 2023.

Bryce Street (Queensland) – 22 years old
Street is a little gem who put together a breathtaking innings of 345 against Victoria in the domestic second XI competition last season, ultimately forcing his way into the Queensland team and impressing almost immediately. Street had two extremely strong seasons in first-grade cricket in Queensland. His strength is his patience and ability to wear down the opposition as an opener in long-form cricket, while also showing a little bit of dash batting at three or four in the shorter forms of the game. Street is averaging 35.9 through his first ten Shield matches.

Future prospects: Street looks to be a long-term staple in the Queensland team.

Jason Sangha (New South Wales) – 21 years old
Sangha hasn’t quite come on as quickly after being so highly rated as a junior, and was dropped after one Shield match this season. The 21-year-old is busy at the crease, which tends to be relied upon too heavily, and he can often be too cute. With two centuries for NSW and two half centuries for the Sydney Thunder in the BBL, Sangha already has a couple of highlights in his young career and with some handy, part-time leg spin as an option, there will be plenty of time to watch his career develop.

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Future prospects: It looks a while away on current form, but Sangha should be in the Test squad by 2025.

Henry Hunt (South Australia) – 23 years old
Another one of these rock-solid openers that tend to fly under the radar, Hunt was prolific in the Futures League and that helped him move across to South Australia and secure a spot at the top of the order. Contrary to his numbers in the first 12 matches of his career, Hunt has the ability to score quickly and heavily in all forms of the game at the top of the order against quality opposition. The next step in Hunt’s game will be to turn his consistent scores in the 30s into more substantial numbers, to assist the Redbacks’ move up the ladder. His first three matches of the season have seen him score 263 runs at an average of 43.8.

Future prospects: We should expect to see Hunt in the other forms of the game shortly and develop into one of Australia’s best domestic openers.

Jake Fraser-McGurk (Victoria) – 18 years old
Much was made of Fraser-McGurk making his debut at 17, and his impressive performances only enhanced his credentials as a talented young batsman with a bright future. The Victorian state team has plenty of youth in it, which means Fraser-McGurk is a developing back-up who will look forward to Premier Cricket resuming by the end of November.

Jake Fraser-McGurk

(Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Future prospects: The parallels aren’t quite there with Pucovski, but Fraser-McGurk won’t take long to establish himself within the state set-up.

Max Bryant (Queensland) – 21 years old
A prominent member of the Brisbane Heat’s big-hitting brigade, Bryant has already established himself in the T20 format as one to watch in the future. The 21-year-old has had an inconsistent time of it in the Marsh Cup, averaging 29.52 in his 19 matches, however his confidence and desire to attack bowlers is a trait that can hold him in good stead if it is curbed appropriately. Bryant will build on his single Shield cap and should look to emulate David Warner’s approach to batting over the next couple of years to enjoy a successful and long career.

Future prospects: Bryant will play for Australia as the most exciting young opener in T20 cricket alongside Josh Philippe, and his chances of playing in the other formats will improve significantly in the coming seasons.

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Jake Doran (Tasmania) – 23 years old
Doran is a recent graduate from the wicketkeeper section, given Tasmania’s tendency to bowl their glovemen and for wickets to be recorded. Doran has played 42 first-class matches in a multitude of different roles for Tasmania, although a lack of clarity in his position has probably hurt his development. The 23-year-old is a nice player with a solid technique, and a spot at five probably best suits him.

Future prospects: Doran will likely bowl this year and then take the gloves again in the future, such is the way Tasmania operates.

Mackenzie Harvey (Victoria) – 20 years old
In his young career, Harvey has played a couple of different roles for the Renegades and had an early taste of competitive cricket against star opposition. Following his prolific form in the junior National Championships, Harvey has had a few struggles in grade cricket, which has him leaning towards a likely developing option in T20 cricket.

Future prospects: Playing aggressive cricket will continue to give him opportunities in the BBL, which could be converted into more games for Victoria.

All-rounders

Cameron Green (Western Australia) – 21 years old
The obvious headline act, Green is now being recognised as Australia’s best young talent after his incredible 197. The talent has been evident for a long while, and the recognition of his batting has only come to fruition seemingly after the back injury that prevented him from bowling. Green has been rushed into the Australian limited overs squad, but perhaps it’s too early, given he hasn’t even established himself in the BBL. It seems as though the future of Australian cricket is on the shoulders of Green, which is unfair. Experts and fans alike have spoken extremely highly, particularly Greg Chappell labeling him the best young talent since Ricky Ponting (guiltily, I tweeted that Green was the next Keith Miller in 2019), which shows just how well placed the 21-year-old is in everyone’s minds. Regardless, Green is the best all-round threat we have seen in a long time and the next decade or so will be a pleasure.

Cameron Green

(Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)

Future prospects: He’s already in the Australian squad, but the hope will be that he doesn’t push his bowling too early and that injuries don’t play a part. I would’ve selected him in the Test squad as the initial taste of international cricket and given him a year or two to establish himself in the other forms of the game.

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Mac Wright (Tasmania) – 22 years old
In terms of exciting prospects, Wright is up there and should bring Tasmanian cricket fans joy in the coming seasons. He scored 104 against New South Wales in his last one-day game, and he scored 70* and 64 at the top of the order in two of his first three matches in BBL09. In his two Shield matches to date, he has batted at six and at three, however his best spot and opportunity may be to open, particularly as a good, more attacking partner for Jordan Silk. With part-time leg spin in play as well, Wright is definitely one to watch.

Future prospects: Wright will be a fan favourite and potential cult hero among domestic cricket followers.

Will Sutherland (Victoria) – 21 years old
Sutherland followed up his stunning end to the 2019-20 Shield season, when he collected his first two five-wicket hauls in the final two games, with a strong performance against South Australia with ball in hand. Sutherland is strong through the crease, hitting the pitch hard with his bowling and operating on a cramping length that tends to rush batsmen. With two 50s in one-day cricket, we have been given a taste of what Sutherland can do with the bat, but it’s with the ball that we can expect to see the 21-year-old make his name going forward.

Future prospects: Sutherland has all the makings of a one-day cricketer for Australia, which is the format he will first appear in internationally by 2023. Establishing himself as an international-quality number eight batsman would assist with future Test chances.

Aaron Hardie (Western Australia) – 21 years old
Some remember him as the young player who dismissed both Joe Root and Virat Kohli in tour matches, others may remember his unbeaten 100 at the end of the 2019-20 Shield season, but Hardie is looking to have a more lasting impression on cricket fans this year. Born in the UK, Hardie has been a leader for WA through juniors and posted good numbers at an international level. There’s a danger that the 21-year-old is a victim of the inevitable rotation in the WA lower order, but he has the all-round ability to have an impact as a fifth bowler and number seven bat should he be used in the role.

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Future prospects: Hardie needs an opportunity at number seven, as he’s the type that could emerge quickly.

Liam Scott (South Australia) – 19 years old
Breaking into the state team this season, Scott is getting the number seven position to work his way into the higher level of cricket and looks comfortable playing to his strengths. The strength in Scott’s versatility with the bat will hold him in high regard under new management, as shown in the match against Victoria where he looked extremely comfortable in both defensive batting and on the counter attack. The early signs are good for the batting all-rounder, who will rely on his work with the stick throughout his career.

Future prospects: Scott will be a middle-order batsman in Shield cricket with the potential to open in one-day cricket. He has the hitting power to turn games around.

Generic cricket fielding pink ball

(Photo by Morne de Klerk/Getty Images)

Jack Edwards (New South Wales) – 20 years old
Edwards has a century in both the Sheffield Shield and the Marsh Cup, batting in a far more comfortable and aggressive fashion than we have seen at the top of the order for the Sydney Sixers. In grade cricket, Edwards averaged 40.4 in seven T20s and chipped in with nine wickets, with his aggression in opening the batting putting his team on the front foot. For Edwards to take the next step and become a regular at state level and in the BBL, he needs to be more comfortable in his ability with the bat, as his reach on the crease gives him an advantage over many others.

Future prospects: Edwards’ numbers will improve as time goes on, particularly in the T20 format where he will be of interest.

Nathan McSweeney (Queensland) – 21 years old
We have only seen McSweeney in five first-class matches and two BBL matches, which isn’t enough of a sample size for keen cricket watchers to see the talent in the young all-rounder, despite some freakish fielding displays. The 21-year-old has bucket loads of talent with the bat and is more than handy with his off spinners, playing a huge role in both facets of the game for Northern Suburbs in grade cricket. McSweeney’s form as captain in the early parts of the 2020-21 season has been incredible, with 668 runs at an average of 111.33, with 13 wickets at 20.62 to go along with it.

Future prospects: McSweeney might need a good run in the BBL to make his name at state level. He deserves the opportunity to transfer his dominant form into a Queensland spot.

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Jarrod Freeman (Tasmania) – 20 years old
Thrust into the frame early, Freeman has had a tiny taste of domestic cricket in all three forms of the game, while still trying to find his feet as a cricketer. Freeman is the type of off spinner who can bowl all day and keep things tight if that’s what is required of him, while probably developing into a good lower-order bat the higher he plays.

Future prospects: At this stage, limited-overs cricket with a focus on economy seems to be the way into the Tasmanian team, without the killer instinct to rip through batting orders.

Jonathan Merlo (Victoria) – 21 years old
Merlo has put together some good batting performances for Victoria’s second XI in spots anywhere from three to six, which includes a impressive 78 against a strong Pakistan XI. There haven’t been many opportunities for Merlo for Victoria or the Stars as yet, with heaps of competition in the middle order to contend with, while his games for the Stars have been as a fringe option.

Future prospects: There’s a lot of competition for spots at a state level, but performing well in grade cricket and in any futures league matches tends to pique the interest of selectors.

Wicketkeepers

Josh Philippe (Western Australia) – 23 years old
Philippe has taken the cricketing world by storm through his BBL performances, which have earned him a contract and subsequent games in the IPL for Royal Challengers Bangalore, being preferred to Australian limited-overs captain Aaron Finch in recent times. He is clearly seen as the heir apparent in limited-overs cricket, but his batting in the longest form of the game is still a work in progress, despite some solid signs in the second last match of the 2019-20 season. We can expect to see his first-class average of 28.22 improve over the next few seasons.

Josh Philippe of the Sixers runs out Ashton Turner of the Scorchers

(Brett Hemmings – CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

Future prospects: With Alex Carey locked into the ODI and T20I teams, expect Philippe to debut alongside him as a fielder in the next 12 months.

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Matthew Gilkes (New South Wales) – 21 years old
All the excitement is around Josh Philippe, but it’s almost certain that Gilkes will be in the conversation. Gilkes has been seen in the BBL and has more than a few similarities with South Australia’s Alex Carey at the crease. In his only appearance this season in grade cricket, Gilkes finished with a run-a-ball double century.

Future prospects: Gilkes will bide his time until he can become New South Wales’ full-time wicketkeeper, settling for the role at the Sydney Thunder and batting at four or five. Expect Gilkes to be in contention for an Australian call-up in the next five years as the best young wicketkeeper in first-class cricket. Remember his name.

Baxter Holt (New South Wales) – 21 years old
Holt is the other young wicketkeeper who appeared for the Thunder, although he was clearly lower-order back-up for Gilkes. Holt’s form with the bat is inconsistent and doesn’t quite have as high a potential as his teammate.

Future prospects: It wouldn’t surprise if Holt looked to move elsewhere in the future if he looks to play Shield cricket.

Bowlers

Wes Agar (South Australia) – 23 years old
Agar burst onto the scene last season for South Australia, leading the team for wickets in both the Sheffield Shield and the Marsh Cup, as well as thriving as a strike bowler at the Adelaide Strikers. Despite an ordinary start to the 2020-21 Shield season, with just one wicket in three matches, Agar is a vital member of the South Australian attack as the only truly quick and aggressive option. A vibrant and infectious personality, as well as a clear ability to play in all three formats, should hold him in good stead going forward.

Wes Agar.

(Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)

Future prospects: Agar will play for Australia, likely breaking into the T20 squad over the next two years and working his way up from there.

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Xavier Bartlett (Queensland) – 21 years old
The Bulls were confident in backing Bartlett in as one of the key figures in the pace attack for the 2020-21 season and he is yet to let the team down, with eight wickets at 20.62 following the first two matches. Bartlett is strong through the crease but relies on his length to be aggressive rather than possessing fearsome pace, while also having decent control in the air to cause serious doubt in batsmen. The 21-year-old is far more prolific against better opposition and has taken to Shield cricket well, making up for an inconsistent start in one-day cricket.

Future prospects: The Bulls have gone through a number of different pace options in recent years but in Bartlett, they have a nice piece to rely on.

Mitchell Perry (Victoria) – 20 years old
Making his debut in the most recent round of Shield cricket, Perry has generally enjoyed success with tight bowling and good movement, with decent control of where he wants the ball to go. With an approach and mindset similar to Victorian legend Damien Fleming, Perry’s debut was workmanlike and encouraging. A focus on consistency and developing elite control is what he will look to focus on to establish himself at Victoria.

Future prospects: Perry will be a feature of Victoria’s team this season and will look to become the regular new-ball bowler in both formats.

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Tanveer Sangha (New South Wales) – 18 years old
Sangha may be the young spinner with the highest potential circling the national competitions, with his bag of tricks and aggressive mindset wreaking havoc throughout juniors. His grade cricket numbers are excellent and the fact Sangha has better control of multiple deliveries makes him the most dangerous commodity going around, despite not having debuted at a professional level in the seniors. It wouldn’t shock to see his name feature in BBL10 for the Thunder with their tendency to rely on spinners, and his reputation will quickly improve.

Future prospects: Sangha seems to be the most likely of the young spinners to do damage at an international level. The big call would be to suggest he will play for Australia by the age of 22, providing strong competition for a spot with Mitch Swepson.

Zak Evans (Victoria) – 20 years old
The other pace debutant for Victoria, Evans is the x-factor that generates the excitement. Evans is genuinely quick and aggressively chases wickets, which as seen in his Shield debut, can result in him leaking runs. The 20-year-old is a rawer prospect than Perry, but perhaps has the higher ceiling if his attributes can all come together and click. It’s an exciting time in Victoria for young talent, and Evans is a key member of that core.

Future prospects: It might take a year or two for Evans to become a regular wicket-taker for Victoria, but the excitement is justified.

Lloyd Pope (South Australia) – 20 years old
The pressure placed on Pope, a 20-year-old leg spinner, is unfair at this early stage of his career. Taking plenty of wickets at a junior representative level, and then a few bags across a young career in first-grade and Shield cricket, has meant that Pope has been backed in as South Australia’s only spin bowler. At this young age, Pope’s only weapon is his wrong’un, which has been finely tuned to deceive even the best batsmen. It makes him a dangerous option in the BBL, however leaves him susceptible to easy manipulation in the longer forms of the game. Pope’s economy rate is sky high, and he desperately needs to be given time to keep working on his game. Pressure and expectations simply must be eased, as Pope has seven wickets at 72.14 in three matches this season, with an economy rate of 4.95.

Lloyd Pope bowls at the Under 19s cricket world cup

(Photo by Kai Schwoerer-IDI/IDI via Getty Images)

Future prospects: Despite many believing it’s a fait accompli, it will be a long time before Pope represents Australia. He needs support and time.

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Wil Parker (Victoria) – 18 years old
Parker’s two games at Shield level last season were enough for him to shun the AFL and stick with cricket, which will likely fast track his development given the interest in him. The 18-year-old obviously has plenty to do, but has the raw talent and attributes to be a more well-rounded bowler at an earlier stage than perhaps even Lloyd Pope, despite not having the numbers. Parker signed with Hobart as a replacement for Qais Ahmad, which could be another opportunity.

Future prospects: We’ll need to see more from him, but the opportunities are lining up for Parker.

Lance Morris (Western Australia) – 22 years old
Morris made his debut for the Melbourne Stars in a typically fringe role, but has made a statement in his first couple of Shield games with a five-wicket haul in trying conditions for bowlers. Perhaps Morris can be guilty of the typical pace bowler’s aggressive approach of banging the ball into the deck, but there’s something refreshing in his bustling approach and high work rate. Like other young fast bowlers, Morris leaks runs but the strong approach to the crease and intimidating follow-through is a nice difference.

Future prospects: WA always has a plethora of pace options, but Morris seems to be an impact player at the moment. He should get a far larger role in BBL10.

Blake Edwards (Queensland) – 21 years old
Edwards has only played one first-class game at the start of last season, finishing with four wickets for the match and showing impressive early signs. He gained modest fame with his nine-wicket haul for Western Suburbs last season, and his unique action that doesn’t use much a front arm makes his already impressive pace that much more skiddy.

Future prospects: He is one to watch when he can get his way back into the Queensland team, as he offers something different.

Liam Guthrie (Western Australia) – 23 years old
Guthrie is not unique in the fact he posts good numbers with both bat and ball in the levels before state, but hasn’t been able to translate that form into the higher grade. Guthrie’s left-arm pace offers an alternative to Joel Paris, perhaps looking to step into the hole left by Jason Behrendorff, but that may be best kept to the BBL with him earning a contract at the Perth Scorchers.

Future prospects: Guthrie has played limited T20 cricket in recent seasons for Perth in grade cricket, but has performed decently in those games. He will look to break into the Scorchers’ team this season.

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