Don’t say it too loudly, but Australia may have unearthed a gem in Cameron Green.
Two years ago, former Australian captain Greg Chappell claimed Green was the best batting talent he’d witnessed since the legendary Ricky Ponting, and the young cricket prodigy has provided another exciting glimpse at his untapped potential.
The 23-year-old steered Australia to an unlikely two-wicket victory in Cairns, scoring an unbeaten 89 at Cazalys Stadium on Tuesday evening to help the hosts take a 1-0 lead over New Zealand in the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy.
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After another failure from captain Aaron Finch sparked a dreadful collapse, Australia was left reeling at 5/44 in the run chase when Green waltzed into the middle.
Black Caps seamer Trent Boult terrorised the Australian top-order, trapping Finch on the pads for five before removing Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne for 1 and 0 respectively during the Powerplay.
So when Green partnered with wicketkeeper Alex Carey in the 12th over, the Australians required a further 189 runs to chase New Zealand’s modest target of 233.
But in a revival for the ages, Green and Carey combined for a 158-run partnership, the largest sixth-wicket stand for Australia on home soil in ODIs, surviving more than 27 overs to rescue their side.
Carey departed in the 40th over for 85, the second-highest score of his ODI career, with Glenn Maxwell and Mitchell Starc falling in quick succession soon after.
And just as the series opener was approaching a thrilling climax, Green was struck down by serious cramps to leave him in severe discomfort.
The West Australian all-rounder needed treatment from Australian team physio Nick Jones on multiple occasions in the final 10 overs.
Jones worked feverishly on Green’s legs during a particularly lengthy seven-minute break with 23 runs still required for victory.
“I’ve seen statues with more leg movement than him,” former Australian Kerry O’Keeffe laughed on Fox Cricket as Green limped through for a single.
But Green powered through to pain, hobbling between the wickets as he and Adam Zampa knocked off the final 26 runs, steering Australia home with 30 balls to spare.
As revealed by cricket statistician Kausthub Gudipati, it was the highest ODI target chased down after being five down for under 50 runs.
Green was named Player of the Match, the third such accolade of his short career, after registering his highest individual score in international cricket to date.
“I couldn’t really walk for a second there,” he told Fox Cricket after the match.
“Groin, calf, hamstring and forearm – the whole lot was going. Not ideal, but that’s OK.”
Green currently boasts the second-highest batting average for Australia in men’s ODIs, sitting behind one-day hero Michael Bevan on the all-time list.
The tall seamer has also impressed with the ball in Australian colours, recently claiming his maiden five-wicket haul in international cricket against Zimbabwe in Townsville.
Since Andrew Flintoff wreaked havoc during the 2005 Ashes series, Australia has frantically searched for its own version of the English powerhouse.
Shane Watson never quite reached his full potential in the Test arena, while Mitchell Marsh has found himself in and out of the national outfit over the past decade.
But early signs suggest Green has the makings of a Flintoff replica – he could arguably make the current Australian XI for either his batting or bowling alone.
“He‘s a really calm character,” Carey told reporters on Tuesday.
“Bat and ball and in the field; (he) just goes about his business and he‘s really focused.
“And he does it in a way that I think we‘ll see him do it for a long time.”
CODE Sports’ Daniel Cherny tweeted: “How long until Cameron Green is Australia’s premier player across the three formats? I’m giving it three years max.”
Highest batting average for Australia in men’s ODI
53.58 – Michael Bevan
49.00 – Cameron Green
48.15 – Michael Hussey
48.07 – Ian Chappell
45.78 – Adam Voges
*Minimum 10 matches
Speaking to reporters in Cairns on Wednesday, Green declared he “should be all good” for Thursday’s ODI.
“I feel good, a lot better than last night,” he said.
“I’m a bit of a serial cramper.
“Growing up, basically whenever I used to pass 50 I’d cramp in both calves
“It’s been an issue for a while.”
The second ODI between Australia and New Zealand gets underway at Cazalys Stadium on Thursday afternoon, with the first ball scheduled for 2.20pm AEST.