By Aiden McLaughlin
‘Scotty Boland’s an MCG specialist.’
The Fox Sports commentary team has attracted plenty of criticism from outside Australia for their style during the current Ashes series, but Kerry O’Keeffe nailed it when he uttered those words on day five of the second test at the Adelaide Oval.
The Australian bowling stocks seemed pretty full after Adelaide. Captain Pat Cummins had missed that test due to being a close contact of a person who received a positive Covid-19 test – he was replaced by debutant Michael Neser. Josh Hazelwood had a side injury and was replaced by Jyhe Richardson. With Cummins expected to return at the MCG, surely it was one from Hazelwood, Neser or Richardson to make up the starting XI. But then, on 21st December, Cricket Australia announced that Victorian fast bowler Scott Boland had been added to the squad for the Boxing Day test. The 32 year old, who played 14 ODI’s and 3 T2oI’s for Australia in 2016, was the 2018-19 Sheffield Shield player of the year, had picked up 15 wickets this summer in two matches against New South Wales, at an average of 10 and had also played against the English Lions in Brisbane, before training with the Australian squad in Adelaide. But it’s one thing being in the squad, it’s another to suddenly be in the starting line-up.
‘I found out on Christmas Eve. I got told about 5.30pm and I told some family and friends and had a heap of support from friends and family and teammates as well. I obviously thought it was going to be really tough, it’s a big step up from anything else I’ve played before so I was hoping to make a little bit of an impact.’
Boland, who hails from the Gulidjan tribe in Western Victoria, would indeed become only the fourth Indigenous player (after Faith Thomas, Ashleigh Gardner and Jason Gillespie) to win a test cap for Australia.
‘It means a lot to join a pretty small club and hopefully it’s just a start for the Indigenous community. I just want to be a role model to encourage Indigenous kids to want to play cricket.’
As England were dismissed for 185 on Boxing Day, Boland took his first test wicket, that of English paceman, Mark Wood, on his way to 1 for 48 off his 13 overs. He also took a couple of catches, as Nathan Lyon dismissed Jos Buttler and Ollie Robinson. A decent entry to test cricket. On day two, batting at number 11, he scored 6 off 11 balls, before Wood dismissed him to see Australia take a first innings lead of 82. It meant England had a tricky hour to navigate before the close of play. After Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc had bowled five overs a piece, and with the score at 22 for 2, Cummins brought Boland on, with England opener Haseeb Hameed on strike. After two dot balls, Boland squared Hameed up and drew the edge, which Alex Carey collected behind the stumps. That brought out England’s nightwatchman, Jack Leach and after a scare first ball, Leach left his second ball only for it to hit the top of off stump, to see Boland finish the day with 2 for 1 off just one over.
With England four down and still 51 runs behind, day three was firstly about them making Australia bat again and with Joe Root and Ben Stokes in the middle, that should have been achievable. After 10 overs of the first session, Stokes had departed and England had added 25 runs. Then, Boland was thrown the ball again. He took the wicket of Jonny Bairstow with his fifth ball, an LBW decision that stood after Bairstow reviewed. The fourth ball of his next over, saw him take the key wicket of Joe Root, caught driving, by David Warner in the slip cordon. The five wicket haul was confirmed at the start of his next over, which would also be his last. Wood provided a caught and bowled opportunity which Boland made no mistake with. Next in was Robinson, who narrowly missed edging his first ball, but wasn’t so lucky just moments later as he was caught at third slip by Marnus Labuschagne. At that stage Boland had taken 6 wickets from 4.3 overs, for just 5 runs (oh, and let’s not forget a maiden over).
It would be Cameron Green that would take the final wicket in the next over, as Jimmy Anderson was bowled, but as a winning margin of an innings and 14 runs was completed, there was only one player people were thinking of.
Starting last year, the man of the match at the Boxing Day test, has also received the Johnny Mullagh Medal. This was announced by Cricket Australia in late 2019 and is named in honour of the Indigenous Australian player who was part of the 13 man squad that became the first Australian cricketers to tour England in 1868. Over the course of six months, they played 47 two day games. Mullagh scored 1,698 runs and 245 wickets in the 45 games he took part in. On the back of Boland’s remarkable performance in the second innings, it was surely fate that he, as an Indigenous player, on debut, at his home ground, would be only the second winner of that medal.
‘There’s about seventeen of us that went away a couple of years ago to commemorate the tour from 1868. We got to learn so much about that tour and what went on and obviously my family will be very proud, and I’m very proud to win this award.’
Ashes memories and sporting memories are about more than just results. As Botham, Warne, Flintoff, Gilchrist, Stokes and others are remembered for certain individual, game changing feats in pursuit of the famous little urn, and just as Ajaz Patel will live forever in our sporting memories for what he did in Mumbai earlier this month, another name has today entered the realms of sporting immortality; a most unexpected, but equally deserving name. Scott Michael Boland.
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