Bartlett makes a massive impact on ‘almost not real’ Australia debut

Australia

No one predicted Xavier Bartlett would be playing for Australia this summer. Not even Xavier Bartlett.

The fact that he made his debut in an ODI, having not played a 50-over List A game for Queensland since September 2022, makes it even more remarkable. Before the BBL, where he dominated the tournament taking 20 wickets in Brisbane Heat’s title win, Bartlett did not play a single game for Queensland in any format as he was coming off a back injury.

But, at the MCG on Friday, he looked like he had been playing international cricket for years as he scythed through West Indies’ top order to claim 4 for 17, the second-best figures by an Australian man on ODI debut.

“It almost feels like it’s not real,” Bartlett said after the match.

He admitted he had no thought at the start of the summer, or even during the early part of the BBL, that he was even close to Australia selection.

“Oh, definitely not,” Bartlett said. “We’ve got so many great fast bowlers at the moment. Obviously, [Mitchell] Starc, [Josh] Hazlewood and [Pat] Cummins are probably the top three to ever do it for Australia or in that conversation. And then I only really got my chance through Jhye Richardson’s injury and Nathan Ellis was injured as well.

“There’s definitely a long list of people in front of me. But I’ve just got to keep trying to do my best for Queensland, and if I get an opportunity at the higher level, just try and take it and just sort of almost learn as much as I can as well along the way.”

“Not the quickest, but as we see you don’t need pace to be disruptive. He was very, very consistent”

Shai Hope on Xavier Bartlett

Despite his BBL success, the thought had dawned on him that he had not played any 50-over cricket since September 2022, which added to his pre-game nerves.

“Yeah it did,” Bartlett said. “I spoke to someone on the phone and I was like ‘I haven’t played a 50-over game in like 15 or 16 months’. Yeah, I mean … I don’t know. It just sort of happened so fast.

“I was injured at the start of this year and didn’t have a chance to play any domestic cricket, which was a frustrating time. But you can kind of see the light at the end of the tunnel and you’ve just got to keep trying to work hard because these days don’t happen very often in the game of cricket.”

It was serendipitous that Australia’s selector on duty, Tony Dodemaide, had been the one to tell Bartlett he would make his international debut. Dodemaide’s 5 for 21 against Sri Lanka in 1988 remains the best figures on ODI debut by an Australian, but Bartlett was happy to slot in behind him in second spot.

“We were sitting in there watching the boys bat and it floated up on the screen,” Bartlett said. “Some of those names, to just be alongside them, it’s pretty cool. [Dodemaide] didn’t say anything. I just had a little picture with him just then.”

West Indies captain Shai Hope was one of Bartlett’s four victims, having nicked a good length outswinger to first slip during the powerplay. He had watched footage of Bartlett in the lead-up but was very impressed by the real thing.

“He’s shown that he’s got the ability to perform at this level,” Hope said after the match. “Not the quickest, but as we see you don’t need pace to be disruptive. He was very, very consistent. He bowled really well, especially for his first game. He looked like he belonged. We know as a West Indies group we have to find a way to not allow him to settle for the next game.”

Alex Malcolm is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo

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