Sport Oliver Davies is Australia's next star, but timing is everything
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Oliver Davies lit up the Big Bash League in his rookie season and took to the one-day arena beautifully in his debut for New South Wales on Monday as domestic cricket returned, making a half-century at well over a run a ball.
In the shorter forms, Davies is Australia’s next big name. He will probably go on and become a solid Test player as well.
For those who have been following the NSW youth pathway competitions, Australian youth championships and state’s premier cricket over the last handful of years, the above statements will come as no surprise.
Davies started attracting attention in the 2015-16 AW Green Shield and hasn’t taken a backward step, representing NSW in every junior age group. He scored a century in his second game of first-grade cricket at the age of 18 and then captained his state at the under 19 National Championships in 2018, where he scored 207 against the Northern Territory and a made number of other big contributions.
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But runs at junior level don’t mean much if you don’t go on with it when given the opportunity to play higher levels, and while Davies still has a way to go before he is a household name, he is on track, having scored a big century in second XI cricket last summer.
The 20-year-old kicked off the current season with an unreal 130 off just 86 balls playing for Manly against Mosman, then 91 off 86 balls the following week in a two-day game against St George (with Trent Copeland and Moises Henriques in the opposition attack), and 116 off 56 balls against the same side in a T20 game in late November.
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The run of form bought him a spot in the Sydney Thunder side, where he excelled throughout the season, taking to the big stage like a duck to water.
What is most impressive about Davies is his absolute fearlessness with bat in hand. He has excellent hand-eye co-ordination, and so much power when he goes after the ball. But not only that, he has every shot in the book and as a top or middle-order batsman can read the situation of the game.
Still, his ability to drive the scoring rate up – as he did so often for the Thunder and again for the Blues against Victoria on a slow, somewhat difficult pitch to get in on at North Sydney Oval – was and will continue to be mighty impressive for years to come.
It’s his style, and it won’t go anywhere as he attempts to force his way into the top level across all three formats of the game.
And while the return of so many Test players means there wasn’t a spot for Davies in both formats to conclude the summer, the fact he was included for his List A debut while the Blues were close to full strength is a testament to how highly regarded he is in the state system.
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His half-century against Victoria – as he supported Steve Smith in an 89-run stand, the Blues recovering from the horrid position of 4-73 – was all the more important given the game situation and will have done his chances of playing out the summer in the coloured clothes no harm.
But he mustn’t be rushed into the national team. Timing, from the selectors’ point of view, will be absolutely critical.
While calls for other youngsters to play for Australia – most notably in recent times Cameron Green – come thick and fast, Davies has so far escaped that sort of attention.
Green had some respectable performances in his first Test series and has done enough to keep his spot next time the team is picked, but a little more experience at Sheffield Shield level may have done him the world of good before he was thrown to the lions.
Even in the shorter forms of the game, where Davies has excelled, it’ll be the same story. Another Big Bash season and one-day cup campaign are musts before he is considered for Australian selection in white-ball cricket. Red-ball cricket is a little further off than even that, but with World Cups on the horizon and Australia potentially about to rebuild across all three formats, the opportunities will be there for Davies.
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When he is eventually selected, the selectors must be patient and allow the youngster to find his feet at the top level, as the NSW selectors would need to be if the runs stopped flowing at any point in the next few games.
This end-of-season run is critical for a player like Davies, as he spends time learning from the best in the game, bonafide stars of the international arena, while also playing against plenty of them.
Other youngsters are in a similar position to Davies, but none with his level of skill, or build-up of runs at lower levels of the game, which suggest he is going to be a future star in the national colours.
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It is, of course, a mammoth call to make at this stage, but all the signs are pointing to the exciting batsman having a fantastic international career.
Now, it’s all about timing and waiting until he is ready to don the national colours.
Until then, NSW fans are in for a treat.
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