More than five months after last playing, Australia’s men’s cricket team is back in action as it takes on England in three Twenty20s and three one-dayers.
And while there are plenty of familiar faces in the 21-man squad Justin Langer has taken over, three new ones will be looking to make their Australia debuts.
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With his blonde locks and constant fidgeting at the crease, Josh Philippe has been compared to Steve Smith pretty much from day one but the 23-year-old is well and truly forging a reputation of his own now.
The star of last summer’s BBL final, Philippe blasted 52 runs off 29 balls on a soaked SCG in a 12-over-a-side match against the Melbourne Stars. In a game nobody expected to happen, Philippe took out player-of-the-match honours, handling the pressure of the occasion like no one else in the game.
It was the cherry on top of a campaign in which he finished as the third highest run-scorer (487 at 37.46, strike rate of 129.86).
Philippe’s has been a star on the rise for quite a while now and big things are expected of him across all three formats.
“There’s no reason why he can’t play all three forms for Australia,” Smith, whose phone call lured Philippe over to the Sydney Sixers, said of the youngster at the start of the year.
“He’s got all the tools there, it’s just about using them at the right times.
“He plays fast bowling really well, we’ve seen him play spin really well with Rashid Khan (earlier this summer).
“The more he plays and is exposed to pressure situations the more he will improve.”
The rookie keeper is unlikely to push Alex Carey out of the XI but it would not be a surprise if he got a game as a specialist batsman at some point in the tour.
On paper, Riley Meredith’s numbers leave something to be desired. He averages an ungainly 36.80 with an economy of 5.50 in List A cricket and an encouraging 23.03 while going for 8.22 an over in T20s.
But scratch a little bit deeper and there is an undeniable quality to the Tasmanian quick, who has already garnered plenty of attention thanks to his electric pace.
Like many out-and-out quicks, Meredith has had to refine his craft since making his List A debut in early 2017 and is well and truly on the right path.
The 24-year-old’s bloated List A average is largely down to the struggles of that first campaign with Tasmania, in which he took five wickets at 53.40. He has taken significant strides forward in the summers since, averaging 34.77 in 2019 and finishing equal fifth on the wicket-takers list in the last One Day Cup with 11 at 25.27.
What’s more, he was among BBL 10’s best bowlers, picking up 10 wickets at just 13.70 runs apiece while leaking only 6.68 runs an over before injury ended his campaign just six games in.
Regularly clocked around the 150kmh mark, Meredith said he would not be holding back on his maiden tour with Australia’s senior team.
“That’s why I’ve been picked, on my pace,” he was quoted on Cricket Australia’s website.
“If I’m not doing that then there’s probably not much of point going over.
“So I’ll definitely be trying to go flat out the whole time.
He is facing plenty of competition for selection, with Andrew Tye and Daniel Sams both impressing in the warm-up matches, and Josh Hazlewood a constant threat.
Sams will be a month shy of his 28th birthday when this tour finishes but he is only at the beginning of his international cricket journey.
A fast bowler who is handy with the bat, Sams was plying his trade for Sydney grade side Randwick-Petersham up until three years ago before getting a taste of professional cricket in New Zealand’s Plunket Shield. He then had a six-game stint with the Sydney Sixers before a call-up to NSW’s side for the 2018-19 One Day Cup.
The then 25-year-old did not take long to leave his mark, scoring 62 off 60 with the bat before taking 3-46 with the ball on his List A debut. He finished the campaign with a bowling average of 22.44 and batting average of 38 and has been a staple of NSW’s 50-over team ever since.
Sams took seven wickets at 25.42 in his debut BBL campaign with the Sixers, but it’s with cross-town rivals the Thunder that he has really caught the eye of selectors.
Last summer the late bloomer took 30 wickets at 15.36 runs apiece as the Thunder fell just one game short of the decider. That wasn’t just the most wickets for the season, it was the most ever taken in a BBL campaign, blowing the previous record away by six wickets.
Sams’ stocks have continued to rise, with the left-arm quick signed by the Delhi Capitals this week to replace Jason Roy in the IPL.
He did his hopes of debut no harm in Australia’s final two intra-squad matches, taking five wickets across the two games.