Crane can give Eng­land a lift

The Cricket Paper - - NEWS & VIEWS - By Richard Ed­wards

MASON CRANE can be an Ashes smash Down Un­der this win­ter af­ter al­ready mak­ing his mark in Aus­tralia as New South Wales’ first over­seas player since Im­ran Khan.

That’s the view of NSW coach, Trent John­ston, who was bowled over by the young Hamp­shire leg-spin­ner af­ter he plucked him from Grade Cricket in Sydney to play in the Blues’ Sh­effield Shield match against South Aus­tralia back in March.

It made him the state’s first over­seas player in 32 years with John­ston ad­mit­ting it takes some­thing spe­cial for a player to break into teams who have, by and large, al­ways ‘backed their own’.

The Eng­land new boy took five wick­ets in the match in a sin­gle ap­pear­ance but laid down a marker that made a coun­try that knows a thing or two about legspin sit up and take no­tice.

Now, with Crane thrust into the Eng­land squad with just three Tests to go be­fore the Ashes, John­ston has no doubts that Crane can cope with what­ever comes his way.

“He was a hugely im­pres­sive young guy who knew ex­actly what he wanted to do on the field,” says John­ston.“He was very clued in – there are very few English leg-spin­ners who have come over here and had the im­pact he had in Grade Cricket.

“The last was Ian Sal­is­bury, so you’re al­ready go­ing back a fair few years. We had lost Stephen O’Keefe and Nathan Lyon, when they had gone on the Aussie tour to In­dia, and we wanted some va­ri­ety in our at­tack. Mason was that man.

“He had taken four six or seven wicket hauls in Grade and it was a mat­ter of tak­ing a chance on him. As it was, it was no chance at all. He took some key wick­ets in that match and just looked com­pletely at home.

“We were that im­pressed with him that we may have looked to fly him back here if we had made the Shield fi­nal. I’ve told him not to put that blue cap in the loft or in a frame just yet be­cause you never know what might hap­pen in the fu­ture.”

Eng­land have taken a sim­i­lar punt on a bowler who has had to bide his time in county cricket this sea­son. De­spite his per­for­mances Down Un­der this win­ter, Crane still found him­self on the out­side look­ing in when the Cham­pi­onship sea­son be­gan in April.

Far from be­ing a pe­riph­eral fig­ure four months on, he now finds him­self as a po­ten­tial cen­tral fig­ure in Eng­land’s Test match sum­mer – with the tan­ta­lis­ing car­rot of an Ashes se­ries dan­gling just around the cor­ner.

“He’s the kind of char­ac­ter that wouldn’t be fazed by an Ashes se­ries,” says John­ston. “He’s a bub­bly guy who got on with the boys here straight away. I’m not sur­prised that he got the Twenty20 call-up and then the Test shout be­cause he has a level head on his shoul­ders.

“He’s an at­tack­ing leg-spin­ner. I’ve known TB (Eng­land coach Trevor Bayliss) for 20-odd years now, and I know the way he likes to play his cricket. Mason cer­tainly fits into that mould. The pitches in Aus­tralia will also help him. Shane Warne al­ways said he loved bowl­ing at Bris­bane and with the first Test at the Gabba, you would think he stands a chance of play­ing.”

That’s still some way off for both Crane and Eng­land, al­though the sched­ule means there will be pre­cious few chances for him to draw breath if he does make an im­pact against the men from the Caribbean.

It has al­ready been a mem­o­rable year for the 20-yearold. There could be a whole lot more to come.

PIC­TURE: Getty Im­ages

Hit Down Un­der: Mason Crane be­came New South Wales’ first over­seas player in 32 years

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