Not too long ago, England were crowned as the world champions. But the ongoing series is making them forget that. It might only be a bilateral series, but such is the magnitude of rivalry between the teams. Not many bilateral series overshadow an event as big as the ICC Cricket World Cup. But it is The Ashes. England want to retain it. Some fans might not back off to say they would trade the World Cup for The Ashes. Such is its significance.
The Ashes 2019 kicked off in Birmingham on a bright Thursday morning. The protagonists from each side had taken the centre stage before the match. It was all about the Steve Smiths, the Joe Roots, the David Warners, the Jimmy Andersons. Sandpaper incident was another thing that had become the topic.
If the first day was all about the hostility shown towards the Australians, the next two days were spent on the adjectives used to describe Steve Smith‘s innings. Before anyone could turn themselves away the masterclass, Smith displayed another one in the second innings. There was a mention to Stuart Broad for his bowling, Rory Burns reached his maiden international hundred, James Anderson was injured, but most of the news revolved around Smith.
“I was probably going to pass on the Australia A tour” – Matthew Wade
Amongst all the protagonists, a not so big name popped up with a century for Australia. A century that shifted the match completely in favour of Australia. Mathew Wade, silently, managed to have a good match for himself. If Steve Smith’s 142 kept Australia in the game, Wade’s 110 took them to a winning position. Not long ago, Wade was an out of favour wicket-keeper. But now, he was a middle order batsman.
After Brad Haddin, Australia failed to find a proper wicket-keeping batsman. Wade was one among the trials. He had an extended run in 2016-17 season. In 10 matches during that period, he had scored only 263 runs. And in 22 test matches overall, he averaged just 28. The Australian selectors had to look beyond him. Tim Paine, who had made his debut in 2010 under Ricky Ponting, was given another opportunity. In the 2017-18 season, Paine could boast an average of 45 in 9 matches, for someone who bats in the lower order. Australia had found the wicket-keeper batsman they were looking for, at least for the time being. Before Wade could sniff an opportunity to get back into the side, Australia, last year, had no option but to appoint Paine as the captain, when their captain and vice-captain were suspended. Australia were now looking for to replace two quality batsman and not a wicket-keeper. Suddenly, Wade was completely out of contention. He felt like all the wicket-keepers in Australia that were born in the Adam Gilchrist generation.
“The thing about Wade is he’s played enough cricket to know how to make runs against ordinary attacks. But how does he go against the likes of Jimmy Anderson and Jofra Archer?” – IAN Chappel
But he didn’t give up. Wade wanted to play for Australia as a pure batsman if he couldn’t get in as a keeper. He returned to Tasmania to play the Sheffield Shield. He kept making runs in the Sheffield Shield. But his runs could not earn him a place in the national team for a reason that sounded ridiculous to him. The Australian selector Trevor Hohns said he needed to bat higher than No.6 for Tasmania if he wanted to be in the frame for Australia. Matthew Wade, captain of Tasmania promoted himself up to No. 4 for the 2018-19 season and amassed 1020 runs at an average of 60. Probably a reincarnation from Matthew Wade, the keeper to Matthew Wade, the batsman.
Though he scored a good amount of runs in domestic cricket, many weren’t sure of his selection for Ashes. Kurtis Patterson and Joe Burns might be disappointed to be dropped from the Test side after the former scored an unbeaten century in the two innings that he played, while the latter’s 180 in Australia’s most recent Test match is still the highest score by an Australian in the past year and a half.
Going by former captain Ian Chappel’s words, who often pointed out that if he was to be ever dropped from test side, he wanted it to be based on Test form rather than domestic form, neither of Patterson or Burns deserved to be dropped, which would have left no place for Wade.
But Wade’s biggest push came when he scored a century for Australia A against England Lions in England. The selectors had a close look on the match before selecting squad for The Ashes 2019 to see the player’s performance in English conditions.
But again, it was a match that Wade wasn’t meant to play. Or at least he thought so. “I was probably going to pass on the Australia A tour,” Wade had said.
He was expecting a baby at that time and he wanted to be with his family, but his wife pushed him to play. “She (wife) told me to go. So all credit to her to be honest, otherwise I wouldn’t be here,” Wade said.
Finally, Wade was selected in the squad. But would he be in the playing XI? Again, according to many, he wasn’t meant to be.
“The thing about Wade is he’s played enough cricket to know how to make runs against ordinary attacks. But how does he go against the likes of Jimmy Anderson and Jofra Archer? I suspect he’s no improvement on the blokes who are there, and (Travis) Head and Patterson have the advantage of being younger. You’ve got to have one eye on the future and going to Wade would be a retrograde step,” Ian Chappel told Channel Nine after Wade’s selection.
Another former Australian cricketer, Stuart Clark, also felt Wade won’t be in the eleven, but for a rather bizarre reason. “I’d be surprised if he plays, because if he plays and gets runs and Tim Paine misses out, then your captain is under a lot of pressure. That’s not a good thing,” Clarke told Fox Sports.
For whatever reasons Wade’s selection wasn’t meant to happen, it happened. Come the big day, Wade was in the lineup. Not only that, he scored an outstanding century, that put Australia in a winning position. From an out of favour wicket-keeper to a middle order batsman, the reincarnation of Matthew Wade was witnessed.