IF scoring centuries is among Justin Langer’s key selection criteria, then the Australia coach doesn’t need to look any further than Jake Weatherald.
The 23-year-old book-ended his white-ball off season with triple figure scores – the first a match-winner in the Big Bash League final in February, and the second on Thursday night in South Australia’s JLT One-Day Cup opener. He now has four centuries in his last 15 one-day matches.
But the aggressive left-handed opener is far from just a white-ball specialist. He was among the highest run scorers in last summer’s Sheffield Shield (765 at 38.25), earning himself a call-up to the National Performance Squad.
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He spent the off-season with the NPS in Brisbane refining his technique with coach Chris Rogers, and the instant results were there for all to see at the WACA.
Weatherald punished the New South Wales attack with four sixes and 11 fours to score an unbeaten 106 off 98 balls. He gave his opponents no where to hide, punishing full deliveries with an array of elegant drives before dealing with the short ball in style.
“He’s building a lovely record … I reckon he’s improving every game,” Fox Sports commentator and former Test batsman Mark Waugh said after the game.
“He’s getting a lot more confidence. Just the way he hit the ball so cleanly today. His balance was great, scored right around the ground.
“He is in really good touch and made it look easy.”
With both the Australian ODI and Test teams short of genuine openers following the ball-tampering suspensions of David Warner and Cameron Bancroft, there could hardly be a better time for Weatherald to perform.
He is now averaging more than 50 in List A cricket (727 runs at 51.92) and has converted four of his five half centuries into triple figure scores.
In the red-ball game, he made 765 runs at 38.25 in last season’s Sheffield Shield, scoring two centuries and four fifties. Only two players made more than two tons – Matt Renshaw and Matthew Wade.
Weatherald was just 40 runs short of being the season’s highest scorer, falling short to Queensland’s Renshaw and Marnus Labuschagne, who one both played in one more match.
Teammate Callum Ferguson was the only other player to score more runs, but at 33 years old is largely considered out of national contention.
That leaves just Weatherald to not earn a national call-up, after Renshaw and Labuschagne were selected in Australia’s Test squad to tour the UAE.
Redbacks coach Jamie Siddons believes a standout One-Day Cup campaign won’t see Weatherald left on the outer for much longer.
Before the start of the season, he told foxsports.com.au he believed Weatherald was “on the cusp” of playing for Australia.
“If he puts a few runs together early in the season it should see him being looked at pretty closely,” Siddons added.
If Weatherald needed just “a few runs” to be looked at by selectors, then a century in the season opener could move him towards the front of the selection cue.