Lloyd Pope has been picking up wickets in domestic age-group tournaments across Australia for some time now, but till Tuesday (January 23), he hadn’t been much in demand.
Then again, figures of 8 for 35 in a crucial quarterfinal of an Under-19 World Cup match are bound to attract a lot of attention. Minutes after he bowled Australia to an improbable 31-run victory against England and into the semifinals, Pope was in the eye of a media storm.
“This is very different, as in like, playing for a club, you get congratulated by your teammates and your parents when you go home, but now it’s weird to suddenly have cameras shoved in your face straight after it.”
Speaking to journalists right after the match at John Davies Oval, Pope seemed overwhelmed by the immediate attention, but clearly, he was over the moon after registering the best figures in the history of the Under-19 World Cup. Incidentally, it was his teammate Jason Ralston who had grabbed the record in their previous game with figures of 7 for 15 against Papua New Guinea.
“It is an unreal experience, I’m still shaking,” Pope gushed. “It is awesome to be going to the semifinals. It’s amazing. I always love playing for my country, whether I’m taking wickets or not, so going out there and doing it with some really good mates was an awesome experience.”
Pope didn’t have a great time in Australia’s opening match of the tournament, against India. He dropped two catches in the space of 10 balls and conceded 22 runs in three wicketless overs as India scored a handsome 100-run win.
“I’ve been bowling alright at training, and I don’t think I bowled too badly against India either,” he insisted. “Probably to be fair, they have some better players of spin – two amazing batsmen in their own right (Prithvi Shaw and Manjot Kalra) who took the game away from us. It was a different challenge to play against subcontinent players but I’m confident about bowling well against them.”
It was the England pacers who did the damage against Australia’s batsmen, rattling them with early wickets and leaving Jason Sangha, the captain, to do a lot of hard work to get his side to a total of 127. England’s batsmen seemed quite comfortable facing the pacers, running off to 47 without loss before Pope triggered the carnage.
“Yeah, I actually remember talking to Jack Edwards (Australia’s opening batsman), and he said the England legspinner (Luke Hollman) was getting some turn, and the pitch was probably conducive for spin,” Pope revealed. “The seamers were getting the ball to move off the pitch a little bit, but it was actually weird that so many wickets were taken (by the pacers) for barely any runs. It was a pretty good pitch to bowl spin on. I don’t really know what I was expecting from the pitch at the halfway mark, but I wasn’t surprised with the turn I got.”
Pope used googlies to deceive a lot of the England batsmen, including Harry Brook, the captain who had been in great touch with the bat in the lead-up to this match.
“It has always been a part of my bowling, the wrong’ uns are a big part of my game. I love working on variations and new things like that in the nets,” he said.
“Sangha grabbed some outstanding catches, a few one-handers too and it is definitely great to have a good slip fielder when you are a spinner.”
— ICC (@ICC) January 23, 2018
When he started off, Pope wanted to be a fast bowler before his father insisted he tried legspin. The journey from there on has been full of hard work, and it finally seems to be bearing the fruits.
“When I went out to club training and stuff, I loved bowling, and as I progressed, I moved to Adelaide and started to become more serious about my cricket,” he said. “I would bowl two to three hours at training, and yes, definitely bowled a lot of balls, and then I felt I was at my best.”
Pope has been lucky to have people around him who have helped him understand the game better and improve his skills as a spinner.
“I love to hear all sorts of advice people have to give to me,” Pope insisted. “Jon Davison (Australia’s spin-bowling coach) has been good to me at CA (Cricket Australia), Dan Cullen (former offspinner from South Australia) has been very good to me at SACA (South Australian Cricket Association). I’m also thankful for learning from watching people who bowled legspin in the past, a bit of everyone really.”
Pope’s parents were in Tauranga and Christchurch to watch their son play during the group stages of the tournamen, and egg him on to do well.
“My parents came over for the first round of games, though they had to fly home for some reasons,” he said. “We have got great support over here, and it is awesome to have them.”
Will his parents decide to take the flight back to New Zealand, now that their son has created ripples with his performance and taken Australia closer to the final?
“Well I am not sure yet, but yeah, they might surely come back if we make it to the final.”
Australia will have to beat the winner of the quarterfinal between Afghanistan and New Zealand to make it to the title round in Mount Maunganui on February 3.