Crane can give England a lift
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.
Hit Down Under: Mason Crane became New South Wales’ first overseas player in 32 years