Debutant quick dismissed Martin Guptill and Kane Williamson to finish with 2 for 24 in Wellington
Riley Meredith had played out his first delivery in international cricket “a thousand times” in his head, so when it landed on a good length at more than 140kph to Tim Seifert during the third T20I against New Zealand in Wellington, there was relief for the fast bowler that his Australia career was underway.
“Good to finally be over, I suppose, a bit of a relief,” Meredith said of his debut. “I was really nervous beforehand. Most of the day I was probably playing it out in my mind, [and] thought about that first ball about a thousand times, so just nice to get it on the pitch in a decent area and go from there. Nice to get a couple of wickets and contribute to a win [by 64 runs].”
What developed was a promising first outing, as he showed the pace that has regularly been seen in the BBL – pushing the speed gun towards 150kph – while finishing with 2 for 24 from his four overs.
There may have been a sharp intake of breath when Martin Guptill lofted a straight six in Meredith’s first over, but three balls later he was off the mark as a wicket-taker when Seifert skied the ball to the off side. As is Aaron Finch’s style, Meredith was taken off after one over; but when he returned in the fifth, he claimed one of the prize scalps by trapping Kane Williamson in front. He could have had a third if Marcus Stoinis had held Devon Conway in the deep, but overall it was a very tidy performance for one of the players pushing to get into Australia’s final T20 World Cup squad.
On removing Williamson, he said: “That was a cherry on the top, a big wicket as well in the context of the game. Really happy with that one.”
Glenn Maxwell, whose 70 off 31 balls led an Australia batting surge, was speaking alongside Meredith and said he was “horrible to face” even in practice scenarios.
“When you have a weapon like that in your team, the way Finchy used him I thought was brilliant tonight,” Maxwell said. “He was able to use him as an impact player at different stages. Think Riley’s biggest strength is he’s able to swing the ball at high speeds. So once he gets that new ball in his hands, he’s able to shape it away – it’s pretty scary.”
Meredith had been presented with his cap by Australia selector George Bailey, who is a former Tasmania and Hobart Hurricanes team-mate. So while family had to be contacted by phone – as was the case for Josh Philippe earlier in the series – there were words of encouragement from someone who has played a big part in his career.
“I’ve played with George for the last four or so years and we are really close… so that was really nice,” Meredith said.
Another key performance in Australia’s thumping win was the return to form of Finch, who hit 69 off 44 balls after surviving a tight lbw appeal first ball. Maxwell, who added 64 in six overs with Finch as the innings started to take off, knew it was only a matter of time before the runs came again.
“I don’t think he’s been under pressure in our changing room,” he said. “His record speaks for itself; he’s still one of the top-five batters in the world in this format. He’s done plenty enough to warrant a few tickets in the bank. That was always going to come, he was always going to get runs because he’s too good of a player to keep down. When you have that confidence through your team – and I hope Finchy feels that as well – it was inevitable.”
Reflecting on the first-ball lbw appeal he had against Finch, Tim Southee acknowledged the narrow margins involved. “He’s had a bit of a lean trot of late but we know he’s a dangerous player when he gets going and we saw that tonight,” he said. “[It was] millimetres away from a different result for him, but we knew he wasn’t far away from a score and it does show you how fickle sport can be – the umpire gives that out, it’s him gone for another game and another low score. But that happens and he made the most of it.”
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo