Batsman Cameron Bancroft has finally started to put the Sandpapergate affair behind him but there’s still a long way to go.

Cameron Bancroft: The day he’ll never forget

We’ll always remember March 24 2018, to paraphrase a line from the classic song American Pie, as the day cricket died.

Not literally of course. A sport this great would need more damage done to it than three over-zealous, unscrupulous and cynical Australian cricketers to kill it.  But there’s no doubt that it was the worst incident to rock it since the Pakistan spot-fixing scandal of 2010 when another shamed trio did what they did for financial reward, rather than trying to find an edge to win a Test match. Not that one is necessarily any worse than the other.

Of the three who did the deed that day in Cape Town – captain Steve Smith, vice-captain David Warner and opening batsman Cameron Bancroft – the latter got the most lenient suspension. In light of the circumstances, that was hardly surprising. The other two were senior players, in the two leadership positions no less.

Warner seems to have been instigator and chief plotter, Smith the man who could have aborted the plan and chose not to, Cameron Bancroft the executioner who by his own later admission, was trying to contribute and please his senior colleagues. The first two got a one year ban, Bancroft nine months.

 

Bancroft on the comeback trail

 

In those nine months Cameron Bancroft did a lot of thinking, probably almost the same amount of crying, learned to become a Yoga instructor and almost gave up cricket.

If his recent form for the Perth Scorchers in the Big Bash is anything to go by, it’s a good thing he didn’t. On the 30th December 2018 he played his first competitive match since that ill-fated day and scored just two. He was just glad to be back.

 

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Scores of 19 and 24 followed as he gradually started getting back into the swing of things and then a fluent 59 after opening the batting as the Scorchers chased what could have been a tricky total at the MCG against the Melbourne Stars.

But the best was yet to come. Having been set an extremely competitive 178 against the well-drilled Sydney Sixers, Bancroft shrugged off the loss of opening partner Michael Klinger, caught off the seventh (yes, seventh and there weren’t any no-balls or wides) ball of the over for 2, to mastermind a successful chase.

There was plenty to like about it other than just the score itself. His 87 not out came off 61 balls at a superb strike rate of 142. It featured eight boundaries and one maximum. He scored 26 runs in flicks through mid-wicket and 22 in drives through extra-cover, always signs of a player in good touch. But as impressive as the sheer runs, the shot selection and pacing of his innings… was the stamina. On a big ground, there were lots of twos and threes being run and given he carried his bat, it’s stating the obvious to point out that he ran every last one of them! Must have been all that yoga.

It’s perhaps also no coincidence that the Scorchers look a far better side with him in it. It will take huge effort for them to make the semis from here, a far bigger one than that to actually win it. With Betfair they’re 9/1 to win it and 21/10 to make the semis.

But Bancroft’s calm presence at the top of the order is a big boost and he’ll be crucial once again when they play the Hobart Hurricanes on Friday.

 

ODI and T20 call-ups unlikely in the short term

 

So what next for Bancroft? Interestingly, he’s never played an ODI for Australia. At 26 he may yet play a few but the 2019 World Cup seems an unlikely target. In the side at the moment are Finch, Khawaja, Carey, Stoinis, Handscomb, (Shaun) Marsh) and Maxwell. And waiting in the wings are the likes of Head, D’Arcy Short, (Mitchell) Marsh and Chris Lynn.  Not easy to gate-crash that party.

Any of those on that list are very fine T20 players as well and one would think that D’Arcy Short is ahead of him in the pecking order as an opening partner for skipper Aaron Finch in the shortest format, with Carey probably in pole position to take the gloves (Bancroft often keeps wicket) and bat somewhere in the middle order. Although if Bancroft carries on batting like he has in the Big Bash, he may well be considered to bat at say four.

 

You can bet on the man-of-the-match award on all Big Bash matches with Betfair Sportsbook. If you’re a new customer, you can also benefit from a great welcome offer. 

New customer offer. Place 5 x £/€10 or more bets to receive £/€20 in free bets.
Repeat up to 5 times to receive maximum £/€100 bonus. Min odds 1/2 (1.5). Exchange
bets excluded. T&Cs apply.

 

Will Bancroft first be called up in the longest format?

 

All of which means his most obvious route back into the Australian team might be via the Test side. In the UAE against Pakistan, Australia went with Aaron Finch and Usman Khawaja as openers. At home in that recent fateful Series defeat by India, Finch was joined by Marcus Harris at the top of the order. 10 innings by Finch yielded just two fifties at an average of 27.80 and perhaps what many suspected is proving to be true: there’s a reason why he wasn’t selected for Test duties till he was 31.

Finch has since been dropped for the series against Sri Lanka. In come Jamie Burns and Matt Renshaw who will compete for that spot alongside Harris, who has done better than Finch with two fifties from eight knocks at an average of 36, not bad for a Test ingenue.

Cameron Bancroft may have to wait a while for his Test recall. But when it comes you feel he’ll make the most out of it. And then his redemption will then be complete.

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