Wright hits selectors' table with a big bash

02 Dec, 2012 03:00 AM
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ANYONE who doubts the long-term significance of performances in domestic Twenty20 matches need only look at Luke Wright for an emphatic rebuttal.

Wright arrived for last season's Big Bash League as a little-heralded all-rounder who, despite being only 26, seemed to be losing his grip on his already tenuous position in England's limited-overs teams. A year on, Wright has returned to Melbourne as England's form batsman in the shortest format, and with the personal honour of being named in the all-star team for the recent World T20 tournament.

The catalyst for Wright's career resurgence was a belated decision by Melbourne Stars to elevate him to an opening batsman. After an encouraging 25 in the Melbourne derby against the Renegades the right-hander produced the most devastating innings of the tournament: 117 off 60 balls away to Hobart, enough to earn him both the highest Australian T20 score and fastest T20 century (44 balls).

Rather than dissipate the minute the match ended, the personal implications of Wright's innings increased - despite it occurring in an Australian domestic match. ''It was not mentioned too much what I was doing out here [representing the Stars], sort of slipped under the radar, but to do something like that it was huge back home, on the news and everywhere. It probably helped that I was an Englishman breaking an Australian record over here, as it made everyone a bit happier,'' Wright recalled.

''It was huge … something that's set me up over the past year. People often ask me what I put it down to, this form I've had.

''That innings really set me up to believe I was good enough to get back into the England side … at the top of the order. I can't look back on that innings more fondly. ''

Wright reckoned that innings was simply ''one of those days that when I was mistiming it, it was either going in the gap or just making it over the boundary'', yet that alone was not enough to explain his eight fours and nine sixes - especially as three of those sixes came from successive deliveries, off Rhett Lockyear. Similarly, it does not explain how Wright came close to replicating that effort at the World T20 held a few months ago, first with his 99 not out off 55 against Afghanistan and 76 off 43 against New Zealand, two innings which helped England fans cope with missing their most devastating batsman Kevin Pietersen, who was then still in exile. Skill had to come into it.

He did, however, agree that century against the Hurricanes ''definitely got me noticed again'' by England selectors. When Wright's signing was announced by the Stars in July last year he was described by this reporter as ''fringe England international'' - for which he had no gripe: ''I was playing a lot of games but not a big role in the games.''

While the World T20 occurred just over five years after Wright's debut, when he made a half-century against India in an ODI, the all-rounder agreed those innings against Afghanistan and New Zealand gained him more respect than he had earned across his preceding 78 limited-overs internationals. ''You're always vulnerable when you are in those [fringe] positions. You're the easy 'drop guy' because you're not doing a big role. That's something I've always wanted to rectify,'' he said.

''It [World T20] was a chance for me to prove that I was good enough at international level, that's why it was so rewarding to do well there. When you score runs in domestic cricket there's always that question about whether you can do it at the next level. It's nice now to be opening or playing three and playing a proper role to help win games for England.''

Wright's increased standing in England team will mean his availability, like for most fellow BBL imports, will be restricted due to national selection. The 27-year-old has been called up for a two-match T20I series in India later this month but expects to miss only one match: the Stars' December 21 home match against Sydney Sixers.

While teams are sure to be wary of new Stars players such as Lasith Malinga, Brad Hodge and Glenn Maxwell, it is likely many will place much more importance on shackling Wright than they would have last season.

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