Ashes 2019: 'Specialist' Matthew Wade finds his Test groove
Before England's fortress of 19 years was breached by Australia, Matthew Wade had featured in just 22 Tests for his country despite his career spanning seven years. Averaging a meager 29 with the bat, he was dropped repeatedly from the squad.
After being snubbed from the 2017 Ashes squad, Wade thought he would never represent Australia in another Test. His discarding had much to do with the return of Tim Paine as a specialist behind the stumps; Wade, having troubles with the wicket-keeping gloves and his inconsistent batting form, had to make way.
And yet there he was last week, setting his team on course for a resounding victory via a sparkling century that earned a raucous ovation from the otherwise hostile Edgbaston crowd. A lot has changed in this span of 18 months.
Wade returned to the Sheffield Shield to make a case for himself as a specialist batsman. Bidding a temporary farewell to the wicket-keeping gloves, Wade decided to focus on his batting returns for Tasmania and worked hard for every single run he could manufacture.
He amassed a plethora of them - 1021 to be precise - in a single season, and was handed the captaincy of the state team.
The mountain of runs kept elevating as the 31-year-old showcased his adaptability skills, notching up an incredible 592 runs in the Big Bash summer that followed. The staggering purple patch earned him a much-deserved call up to the Australia A squad that was set to tour England before the World Cup.
Wade had got a sniff by then and with one eye at the Ashes, he kept scoring in his own merry way as he brought up two List A centuries. The second one was nothing less than a blitzkrieg as he broke the Australian record for the fastest List A century by getting to the mark in just 45 deliveries.
It didn't end there though. His stunning hundred in the first clash versus the English Lions saw him being drafted into the 17-man squad announced for the first Ashes Test.
The rest is a memoir from history, one that we witnessed and savored. He came in to bat in a tricky situation with Australia swelling up their lead but the match pretty much in the balance. A failure in the first innings would have been at the back of his mind, but he put it all behind and played according to the situation.
Here's a look at some of the shots Wade played in the match:
With aggressive strokeplay and a confident approach, Wade brought up a whirlwind Ashes ton - his first in the competition - and one that definitely meant to him a lot.
"I feel like I'm a different player, I almost feel like I'm starting my Test career again, but an Ashes hundred, it's definitely the best moment I've ever had as a cricketer. It probably won't sink in until after the game or maybe a few days when we're playing a tour game (versus Worcester) in a few days. But I'm proud of the way I soldiered on in the last few years, not knowing if I'd get another opportunity," he said after the match.
Ironically, the left-hander celebrated his hundred with Tim Paine in the middle, his competitor for Australia's wicket-keeping position for many years. These two are childhood mates and have played lots of backyard cricket, growing up together on the outskirts of Hobart.
"I and Tim grew up in a small little suburb called Lauderdale, 20 minutes out of Hobart, so we've played a few backyard Test matches. But it was nice to be out there in the middle playing a real one today," Wade added.
It was certainly nice to witness as a fan too. If Wade can continue performing as well as he has been lately, it won't be long before he cements a place in the team as a specialist batsman - and keep playing alongside Paine for the foreseeable future.
Also read - Ashes Most runs