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“Stanlake could fit into a full-fledged Australian bowling attack in the future, consisting of Starc, Hazlewood and Cummins”

In the absence of regular quicks, it was an opportunity for some of the other talented pacers to prove themselves in Australia’s ODI series against England. Australia had a poor series, but it also paved way for some of their players to showcase their skills. The fast bowling especially lacked experience, but they were not short of talent. Coming up against the No. 1 ODI side is never going to be easy and the bowlers struggled to keep the runs down on most occasions. However, tall and lanky Billy Stanlake can be proud of his efforts in the final match at Old Trafford. He bowled with pace, purpose and hunger, which almost gave Australia a consolation win. However, a Jos Buttler masterclass stood in their way.

With Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins unavailable for the series, there was a lot of pressure on the likes of Kane Richardson, Jhye Richardson, Andrew Tye and of course Stanlake to deliver. With the new captain at the helm, with a relatively new squad, it was never going to be a walk in the park, especially against England and that too at their own backyard.

Australia were already 0-4 down and had nothing but pride to play for. England having won the series, wanted to complete a whitewash against their old enemy – an opportunity they do not get every day.

With just 205 on the board, the question of defending these runs was never going to be on the cards. Not against a side that has two of the highest ODI totals in history – One of which was scored just a few days ago. Bowling England out was the only way Australia could win. Australia had never bowled England out in the entire series and it was going to take a monumental effort from them to do so in this match, considering that they did not have enough on the board.

Australian bowlers, especially Stanlake took this challenge front on. He bowled with pace, accuracy and created doubts in England’s top-order. He was rightly rewarded. It was that tantalising line outside off, back of a length at 90 miles an hour that fetched Stanlake two wickets in the sixth over – Bairstow first chopped one on and then Joe Root edged the ball to first slip. If that was not enough, Stanlake bowled England captain Eoin Morgan off his next over with yet another peach. Australia began to sniff victory as England were reduced to 27-4 in the eighth over. It was a contrasting start to what Australia had made in the match with Aaron Finch and Travis Head going great guns right from the word go.

Stanlake continued to hit the deck hard but was not able to find any more success in the match. But if there’s one thing that his spell did was for the world to take notice of the 6 feet 7-inch talent. He finished with 3-35 from his 10 overs, perhaps the spell of his short career thus far. But make no mistake, he is here to stay.

Stanlake’s selection surprised everyone when he was drafted in the Australian ODI team for the series against Pakistan in 2017. He had played just a handful of games in the Big Bash League (BBL) and even lesser List A and First-Class matches. The selectors were clearly happy with the pace and bounce he offered and perhaps felt that the batsmen would struggle to read him.

The England tour will no doubt be a learning curve for him and the other bowlers in the squad. Stanlake has to take this experience back with him and continue improving. For that, he has to play more domestic cricket, which will give him an opportunity to hone his skills. Fast-tracking domestic cricketers into the international stage have never been Australia’s way of doing things.

However, things have changed over the last year or so, which has surely added to Australia’s depth in all departments. Some have worked, while some have failed to make an impact in their limited chances. Stanlake is also a result of such fast-tracking. Stanlake could fit into a full-fledged Australian bowling attack in the future, consisting of Starc, Hazlewood and Cummins. But for now, he has to wait on the wings, bit when the opportunity comes his way, he must be ready to grab it with both hands. The Australian team management should not give up on this talent.

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