With the condensed competition format, the Matador Cup started in blistering fashion on Monday – and it was mainly all thanks to willow on leather; although Mitchell Starc wanted to also have a say.
Putting aside the fact the opening three games were played on suburban grounds that are tiny compared to the likes of the MCG and SCG, the efforts of the batsmen cannot be understated.
The tournament itself was bolstered by the unexpected addition of the Australian test players due to the cancellation of the Bangladesh tour – but it was Travis Head who stole the show.
South Australian captain and now double centurion Head is not 22 until the end of this year.
However, his composure and eye for the ball resulted in a score of 202 off 119 balls, including 12 sixes.
For South Australia, it is only one game on a ground more akin to a postage stamp, but it’s the confidence boost the entire side will get at reeling in a 350+ target with several overs to spare that will get the Redbacks up and running.
He did it so clinically the Redbacks had Western Australian on the backfoot, and the Warriors bowling figures hardly look flattering against the powerful performance the left-hander displayed.
It is hard to go past the partnership he carved out with Callum Ferguson (112 from 118 balls); the 278 runs scored in a little over 32 overs – ticking along close to nine runs an over – was the catalyst for such a commanding victory.
Not that Western Australia didn’t crush the South Australians a few hours prior, with Cameron Bancroft and Shaun Marsh posting enormous centuries.
Bancroft and Head present themselves as part of generation next for Australia as the national side looks to rebuild.
Like any good performer, the key to both of these players is a strong season and a good conversion rate.
For Head, it is all about going on with starts and playing the captain’s role with a level persona. He must do it now with the red ball, and confidently.
Bancroft finished with 896 Sheffield Shield runs in 2014-2015, and a huge 176 is a surefire statement to the selectors ahead of the first day of international cricket on November 5.
Elsewhere, seeing Mitchell Starc rip any side to shreds and shatter the stumps is always entertaining.
This time, seeing a CA XI put together from all the six state sides crumble so easily – to the tune of more than 270 runs – is concerning.
However, the side is the youngest in the competition and after one game in any sporting competition, trying to draw conclusions doesn’t work. The side will get better with time but came up against a New South Wales side packed with test experience.
What has been proven today, regardless of ground size and bowling attack, is there are batsmen at state level who can step up and hit a groove to excite cricket fans – but must do it consistently.
The likes of Jimmy Peirson and Marcus Harris are still developing, and will take a lot from watching the likes of Steve Smith and Starc go about their business.
It won’t all be a batsmen’s show – expect the bowlers to come back in the later stages. The likes of Jason Behrendorff and Gary Putland, perhaps the two best left-armers going around at the moment, can give it a red hot crack
While a few players in the Champions Trophy squad will not be participating in the coveted test series, a fair majority of the team will have several matches to adjust to both the playing and weather conditions in England. Perhaps not outright favourites for the Ashes, Australia still boasts a very good one day record at the tournament, and will be looking to secure another piece of silverware.
Overcast skies threatened throughout the whole day, but the rain never eventuated. Jayde Herrick grabbed five wickets for the Victorian Bushrangers while Aaron Finch and Glenn Maxwell saw Victoria home by nine wickets against Western Australia Warriors at the MCG. The game, however, did see Clint McKay go off the ground injured.