Three Sydney University cricketers with three very different stories to tell opened the batting in three different first-class matches this week – and each one scored a century.
Scott Henry now plays for the University of Queensland, but he was a Sydney University batsman from 2009-10 until last season. He moved north to Queensland in search of further opportunities after he was delisted by the NSW Blues at the end of 2014-15. The Queensland selectors made no promises, suggested that he might get a chance if he scored some runs, and left him out of the Matador Cup team. He started slowly, with scores of 15 and 24 in the opening rounds of the Premier competition, but then hit his stride with 82 against Ipswich-Logan, 101 not out against Valley and 52 against Western Suburbs. That earned him a call-up for the opening Sheffield Shield match of the season, against Victoria. This posed significant challenges – apart from having to deal with the unfamiliar pink ball, Henry was confronted by an attack built around Test bowlers James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, John Hastings and Glenn Maxwell. Queensland’s two Test aspirants, Joe Burns and Usman Khawaja, both went cheaply. But Henry played superbly, defying the Victorian attack almost throughout the first day. He faced 249 deliveries, hit 13 fours and a six, and by the time he was caught by Maxwell from Pattinson’s bowling, he had scored 141 – just one run short of his highest first-class score. It’s an exceptional start to his career for his new State, and we’ll continue to think of him as an SUCC cricketer for a while yet.
Ryan Carters has had a frustrating start to the representative season – despite his outstanding form for NSW last season, Carters has received few opportunities with the Blues so far this season because of the presence of the team’s international stars. Instead of sulking or complaining, he’s made the most of what chances he has received. Last week, the Australian selectors chose him to play in the Prime Minister’s XI against the touring New Zealanders in Canberra. He responded by top-scoring with 74 from only 71 deliveries, blending powerful strokes and clever improvisation. He was then chosen to play another match against the tourists, for a Cricket Australia XI at Blacktown. Carters opened the batting with Victoria’s Aaron Finch, and the pair took control of the game, batting throughout the whole of the first day and taking 376 runs from 91 overs. Carters was unbeaten at stumps on 156, having faced 276 deliveries and hit 16 boundaries. On the second morning, he and Finch pushed on, and when Carters pushed Kane Williamson through the covers for a single, the partnership reached 400 – only the third time in the history of Australian first-class cricket that an opening stand has reached that mark. Not long afterwards, another Carters single from Williamson (this time to deep mid-off) took the stand to 432, which made it the tenth-highest opening partnership ever recorded in first-class cricket. Then records just kept falling – on 457, Carters and Finch passed the record for the highest opening stand in Australian first-class cricket and when Finch blasted Ross Taylor (the tenth bowler tried) down the ground for 6, it became the fourth-highest opening partnership in first-class cricket. A few moments later, Carters and Finch were only the fourth pair of openers ever to share a stand of 500. After last season’s near-miss, Carters brought up his first double-century when he cut Martin Guptill for 3. He had 209 to his name when he was eventually dismissed, with the score on 503. He’ll be back in NSW colours soon enough.
Was there ever any doubt that the revitalised Ed Cowan would score a hundred in his return to the NSW Sheffield Shield side? In the space of a few months, Cowan has gone from being a man expected to retire to the man most likely to win a Test recall. His early-season form in the Matador Cup was outstanding, and in the Shield game in Adelaide he seemed right at home at the top of the Blues’ order alongside David Warner and Steve Smith. In the first innings, he moved so confidently to 31 that his dismissal – caught at slip from Joe Mennie’s bowling – came as a surprise. In the second innings, he played exceptionally well to set the platform for the New South Wales innings, remaining unbeaten on 82 at stumps and helping Steve Smith to bat the home team out of the match. On the third afternoon of the game, as NSW accelerated, he cut his first ball of the day to the fence and then moved rapidly into the 90s. He reached his hundred with his eleventh boundary, pulling Adam Zampa through mid-wicket from the 174th delivery he faced. He was unbeaten on 107 when Steve Smith declared.
Congratulations to all three players on their excellent performances.