WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Lloyd Pope produced something of a cricketing miracle on Tuesday when the leg-spinner took tournament record figures of eight wickets for 35 to bowl Australia into the semi-finals of the under-19 cricket World Cup in New Zealand.
The 18-year-old’s haul was even more impressive considering the fact that his side had been dismissed for 127 in the 34th over of their quarter-final against England, who were cruising to victory at 47 without loss after seven overs.
Pope, however, was then thrown the ball by captain Jason Sangha and he proceeded to run amok, taking two wickets in his first over off successive balls.
”Sangh (Sangha) put me on pretty early,“ Pope told reporters after England were bowled out for 96, despite opener Tom Banton scoring 58. ”I like putting myself in pressure scenarios, I feel like I bowl better under pressure.
“Sangh throwing me the ball gives me a bit of confidence that my captain is trying to advance the game and for me to land the ball in there straight away and take wickets, I love those scenarios in the game.”
Pope said despite the fact his side had set such a paltry target at the Queenstown Events Centre, no-one believed they would lose the game, even after Banton had given England a blistering start.
“Everybody had some real fight left in them and we were constantly talking about winning the game,” Pope said.
”We didn’t think we were ever falling behind. We all felt that we were in it and could win.
“We always had the belief even when they 47 for none.”
Pope followed his double-strike by removing Will Jacks for one and then had Banton and Finlay Trenouth both caught by Sangha at slip to leave England reeling on 79-5 at the scheduled lunch break and staring defeat in the face.
He finished off the tail after the break and the comparisons to leg-spinning great Shane Warne were immediately being made.
The Australian is widely considered to have changed the art of leg-spin as he tortured batsmen worldwide with his control and variations before retiring with 708 test wickets but Pope said he did not feel anything like him.
“I don’t tend to compare myself to him,” said Pope, whose long unkempt hair would be shorn when he returns home.
”It is good to look at him and learn. I really would like to put my red-ball cricket up where he was, that’s the aspiration for any leg-spinner really.
“Comparisons? I don’t really think about them too much.”
Pope’s first-ball dismissal of England skipper Harry Brook with a googly would have pleased Warne, who took to Twitter to compliment a youngster armed with a formidable bag of tricks that also includes sharp leg-breaks and awkward skidders.
“This is terrific & brings a huge smile to my face. I had the pleasure of meeting this impressive young man in Adelaide a while ago! Was nice to have a bowl with him too - Lloyd give it a rip - well done & congrats! Spin to win my friend,” Warne tweeted.
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury/Amlan Chakraborty; Editing by John O'Brien