Teen sensations saving Australian cricket
IT might be doom and gloom among at board level and among the senior players in the Australian side, but the country's cricket fans can take some comfort from the knowledge that the kids are alright.
On Tuesday NSW duo, Jason Sangha and Jack Edwards, became the first pair of teenagers in a quarter of a century to make hundreds in the same game.
The two are in elite company. In 1993-94, Ricky Ponting and Michael DiVenuto achieved the feat for Tasmania while Martin Love and Jimmy Maher did the same for Queensland later that summer. All four went on to have stellar first class careers with Ponting, obviously, put this name up among the best in the world.
Sangha, 19, was captain of the Australian Under 19 side that played the World Cup in New Zealand earlier this year, but flagged his potential when he scored his debut first class century in a tour game against England last summer.
Born within walking distance of the SCG but raised in Newcastle, he jokes that his Indian heritage ensured he would always be obsessed by cricket.
Edwards, who played under Sangha in the Under 19s, is playing his third first class game. Sangha has one more to his name.
The blonde haired brother of NSW bowler Mickey, Edwards became the youngest ever batsman to score a century in a domestic one day game earlier in the season. His 116 from 118 balls in that match came after a string of solid scores.
Edwards, who is powerful and daring through the on side, brought up his century first but departed soon after. His 101 from 149 balls included 10 fours and two sixes. Sangha was not quite as cavalier, but cuts with confidence. His 117 from 223 balls featured 10 boundaries and a single six.
NSW later declared with the score 9-442 and had Tasmania 3-108 at stumps.
While the teenagers looked to bat without fear of consequence, Edwards admitted to some anxiety as he approached his first Sheffield Shield century.
"I was pretty nervous in the 90s, but I guess having Sangh in the 90s as well made me feel a bit better knowing he was probably just as nervous and I knew if I stayed out there I would get there eventually," Edwards said.
The younger of the pair said they were both encouraging each other but he may have lost some focus later.
"There were a few lazy shots from myself," Edwards said. "It wasn't a race, we had all day to get there."
While Sangha's family was present for his first Shield hundred, the Edwards family got to the ground after the younger of their two cricketing sons was dismissed.
The pair have developed a bond playing under age cricket for their state and country.
"I was talking to Jackie early about how we had played an Under 14s game here (at the SCG) and to both score our maiden centuries here at the SCG was an amazing feeling," Sangha said. "It was so good to be out in the middle when he got his. It was a great day for both of us."
With the Australian side in a state of flux there is no doubt there could not be a better time to be performing at Shield level, but nothing is guaranteed. DiVenuto and Maher had outstanding first class careers and played ODIs but could never break into an Australian Test set up which was bristling with big names at the time. Love played just five Tests for his country, scoring a century in his last game against Bangladesh.
"There is opportunity but you definitely need a lot more than one hundred, it's exciting times but we have a lot of work to do," Edwards said.
The pair have been adopted by the senior players in the side and both credit former Test player and high performance batting coach Chris Rogers with his development over the winter.
"The guys in the Blues have been really supportive of us," Sangha said. "Obviously we took our time in the middle today, but as Jack says, it was just one score, so as many times Jack and I can put on the runs and take wickets the better the team will be."
Sangha is a handy leg spin bowler and picked up 3-80 in the Blues' last game.
Edwards was promoted from No.7 to No.5 in this game.
"As soon as I nicked one through the slips it was a good feeling," he said. "Leading into the week I had a chat to (coach Phil Jaques), cricket is all a mental sport and it was important for me to go out there and continue to back myself.
"I had a good hit out against the South African guys (for the PM's XI) during the week but it is nice confidence boost to know what I have been doing to get some runs."
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