Saturday, February 24, 2024

Dennis Lillee’s protégé, teenage record-breaker, NSW Blues debutant: Meet Australia’s Under-19 World Cup heroes

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The next generation of Australian superstars emulated the feats of Pat Cummins’ ODI squad on Sunday, defeating India by 79 runs in the Under-19 World Cup final in South Africa.

Hugh Weibgen’s side posted 7-253 at Willowmoore Park, with Harjas Singh scoring a half-century, before bowling out India for 174 to secure Australia’s fourth title.

It marks the first time Australia has won the Under-19 World Cup since 2010, when Mitchell Marsh and Josh Hazlewood led the team to glory in New Zealand — while Sunday’s triumph has given Australian fans a glimpse at some of the nation’s future cricket stars.

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Several of Australia’s modern greats competed in the Under-19 World Cup, including the likes of David Warner, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Mitchell Johnson and Michael Clarke.

Approximately 20 per cent of Australian Under-19 players go on to represent their country, so it’s fair to assume many of the young guns in South Africa will don the baggy green in the near future.

From the 2010 triumph across the Tasman, Nic Maddison, Kane Richardson, Adam Zampa, Marsh and Hazlewood went on to play international cricket, while several members of the 2020 campaign have already donned the green and gold, including Jake Fraser-McGurk, Tanveer Sangha and Todd Murphy.

So who’s next?

Australia lifts the ICC U19 Men’s Cricket World Cup trophy. Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images/Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

HARRY DIXON

Dixon made headlines last year after smashing 167 and 83 in the first Youth Ashes Test against England, also clobbering 148 in a one-day contest against the old enemy a few months earlier.

The St Kilda product, who represented Vic Metro in the national Under-19 championships, recently signed a two-year deal with the Melbourne Renegades, but has yet to appear in the Big Bash League.

Dixon made his first-grade debut as a 16-year-old, scoring his maiden Premier Cricket century earlier this year. He was also Australia’s leading run-scorer of the Under-19 World Cup with 309 runs at 44.14, including three fifties.

“He’s a wonderful ball-striker,” former Australian all-rounder Daniel Christian, who recently mentored the Under-19 Australian team, told Fox Cricket last year.

“He’s got a wonderful ability to go up and down the gears. We saw that in the four-dayer where at different stages he’d go quite hard and take the bowlers down. But then he’s able to wind it back and defend when he needs to.”

Australia’s Harry Dixon. Photo by PHILL MAGAKOE / AFPSource: AFP

SAM KONSTAS

The New South Wales prodigy didn’t have the greatest tournament in South Africa, compiling 191 runs at 27.28, but the young opener regardless has a bright future ahead of him.

Konstas, who scored a century against the West Indies during the Super Sixes, signed a Big Bash League contract with the Sydney Thunder this summer, also making his first-class debut with the Blues in the Sheffield Shield in November.

Earlier this year, the teenager broke the record for most first-grade runs in a season for Sutherland, also holding the all-time run-scoring record in New South Wales’ Under-16 Green Shield competition.

Konstas, who reached triple figures during a Youth ODI against England in Beckenham last year, has a close relationship with former Australian all-rounder Shane Watson, mentoring the teenager on his mental discipline.

“He’s been my idol all my years watching him play,” Konstas told Fox Cricket last year.

“He gives me so much advice. I’m like a sponge, trying to soak up as much information as I can.”

Sam Konstas of the Blues with Shane Watson. Photo by Mark Evans/Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

MAHLI BEARDMAN

Beardman, one of the fastest bowlers at the Under-19 World Cup, already holds a rookie contract with Western Australia, making his Marsh debut earlier this summer.

The 18-year-old, who also represented Australia during last year’s Youth Ashes tour of England, finished the tournament in South Africa with ten wickets at 10.50 and a superb economy of 2.77.

He was named player of the final after ripping through India’s top order with figures of 3-15 from seven overs.

“(It feels) pretty surreal to be honest, and hasn’t fully set in yet,” Beardman said after the win.

“It has been something we have been working on for a long, long time. All that hard work has paid off.”

Beardman has been mentored by Australian legend Dennis Lillee for almost three years, with the cricket icon helping him with his mental preparation.

“From DK, I learnt a lot of mental stuff and tried to implement that as much as I can this tournament,” Beardman continued.

“He got me thinking about my bowling instead of just bowling, thinking about my field setting and then from there working on mental things — little cues like going head, and then going toes next ball. Stupid stuff like that.”

Mahli Beardman of Australia. Photo by Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo ImagesSource: Getty Images

CALLUM VIDLER

Vidler finished the Under-19 World Cup as Australia’s leading wicket-taker with 14 scalps 11.71, including dazzling four-wicket hauls against England and Namibia.

The Queenslander, capable of exceeding 140km/h, was Australia’s equal leading wicket-taker during last year’s Youth Ashes tour of England, taking eight wickets in the first Test in Worcester.

“(Vidler) has been incredible,” Beardman said.

“He was awesome in England, he’s been crazy here as well. He is super talented. It was a pleasure to bowl alongside him and the rest of the cartel.”

Earlier this summer, Vidler was signed by the Brisbane Heat as a local replacement player, but the 18-year-old speedster is yet to make his Big Bash League debut.

“I quite enjoy four-day games at the moment, running in all day,” Vidler told Fox Cricket this week.

“My dream would be to play for Australia in a Test match. There’s something different about Test matches that you don’t get in T20s.

“There’s been a lot of talk about Test cricket and its future, but it’s the ultimate form of the game.”

Callum Vidler of Australia. Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo ImagesSource: Getty Images

HUGH WEIBGEN

Weibgen has joined an illustrious list of cricketers to lead Australia to an Under-19 World Cup title alongside Mitchell Marsh, Cameron White and Geoff Parker.

The Queenslander blasted a century against England during the Super Sixers, finishing the tournament as the fourth-leading run-scorer with 304 runs at 50.66.

In 2022, he became the youngest Valley District cricketer to score a men’s first-grade century, achieving the feat a few weeks after his 17th birthday, before playing alongside some of his childhood heroes in the KFC T20 Max competition.

Several of Weibgen’s teammates have praised the right-hander for his leadership and composure throughout the tournament.

“He’s definitely one of the most mature batsmen for his age,” Valley District teammate Vidler told Fox Cricket.

“The way he goes about it, he knows he can afford to face a few dot balls and then make them up later, because he’s certainly a strong, powerful hitter of the ball as well.”

Hugh Weibgen of Australia. Photo by Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo ImagesSource: Getty Images

TOM STRAKER

Straker was named player of the Under-19 World Cup semi-final after taking 6-24 against Pakistan, setting a tournament record for best bowling figures in a knockout match, previously being Kagiso Rabada’s 6-25 against Australia in 2014.

The Sutherland product snared two early wickets in the must-win contest before cleaning up the tail, helping roll Pakistan for 179 in Benoni.

Straker, dubbed the ‘Monster Truck’ by his coach, finished the tournament as the sixth-leading wicket-taker with 13 scalps at 11.00.

“(It is a) great feeling,” Straker said after Sunday’s win.

“We have worked all year for this. We have been to Brisbane and England, all for this moment and it has finally come. We are all good mates. We all love to play with each other.”

Tom Straker of Australia. Photo by Alex Davidson-ICC/ICC via Getty ImagesSource: News Corp Australia

Australia’s leading run-scorers in 2024 Under-19 World Cup

309 runs at 44.14 — Harry Dixon

304 runs at 50.66 — Hugh Weibgen

191 runs at 27.28 — Sam Konstas

141 runs at 28.20 — Ryan Hicks

120 runs at 60.00 — Oliver Peake

Australia’s leading wicket-takers in 2024 Under-19 World Cup

14 wickets at 11.71 — Callum Vidler

13 wickets at 11.00 — Tom Straker

10 wickets at 10.50 — Mahli Beardman

9 wickets at 17.66 — Raf MacMillan

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