Vitality T20 Blast – Ben McDermott eyes extended English summer after Australia omission

When Australia play the first of three T20 internationals against Sri Lanka in Colombo on Tuesday, the man who hit the winning runs in their most recent game will be more than 5000 miles away in the Hertfordshire village of Radlett, playing for Hampshire in the Vitality Blast.
Ben McDermott flicked Haris Rauf off his pads for four to seal a three-wicket win over Pakistan in Lahore two months ago, finishing on 22 not out from No. 7, but the leading run-scorer in last season’s Big Bash finds himself squeezed out of the squad with several big guns returning, and is not part of the Australia A squad shadowing the main tour either.

“Guys like Glenn Maxwell, Steve Smith and David Warner are all back in the mix which pushed me out,” McDermott told ESPNcricinfo. “You get a go through injuries, stuff like that: Mitch Marsh got injured in Pakistan, Maxwell and Warner weren’t there. You’re aware that when those guys come back they have first preference.

“It’s not the worst back-up plan to come to a really good club, play a full season in a T20 league different to the Big Bash and experience new conditions and expand my game. It’s always been a dream of mine to play county cricket.

“I was signed with Derbyshire for two years: the first was deferred because of Covid and last year I was called up by Australia. I ended up playing two Championship games for Derbyshire – which was a bit of a surprise really because I was over for the Blast. It was an easy decision to come over – I jumped at the chance.”

McDermott, 27, had a breakthrough season in the BBL for Hobart Hurricanes, scoring 577 runs with an average of 48.08 and a strike rate of 153.86 and breaking up one of the competition’s most established opening partnerships between Matthew Wade and D’Arcy Short.

But despite a maiden international hundred in Pakistan – he made 104 from No. 3 in a tight defeat – he remains on the fringes of the Australia set-up, with sporadic opportunities in a number of different roles culminating in a T20I average of 15.82 and a strike rate of 94.38.
Along with Alex Carey, Josh Inglis and Josh Philippe, he is one of a number of wicketkeeper-batters looking to stake a claim to be Wade’s long-term successor in the T20I team, and even took the gloves ahead of Wade in the most recent BBL.

“It’s a really good side: it’s pretty packed,” he said. “They won the T20 World Cup so I don’t see it changing too much. It would be really nice to be in that squad and experience what those guys did in Dubai – it looked spectacular – and if I do well here it’s not going to do my case any harm.

“But it’s going to be tough to crack into. I’ve had 25 [23] international T20s now and haven’t really taken those opportunities. I’ve had a good crack at a lot of different batting positions as well so hopefully I can really nail down a gameplan at the top of the order and keep being consistent with it.”

McDermott has had a solid start to his Hampshire career: after five games, he is their leading run-scorer, with a top score of 60 off 35 balls in their first win of the season against Sussex on Saturday night.

“I’ve had some starts here and there but hadn’t been able to do it for long periods of time,” he said after that innings. “Tonight was an exception and hopefully it is a kickstart for things to come. Tournament cricket is about momentum and I’ve never played in a tournament which is so congested, where games are coming thick and fast.”

He is due to be available throughout the Blast along with his Hurricanes team-mate Nathan Ellis and both men have a secondary incentive to perform this week: they are both registered for Thursday’s wildcard draft for the Hundred and hoping to spend another month in the UK if selected.
“They’ve both made big strides in the last two years and are key players for us at Hobart, as well as good friends,” Tim David, who has impressed for Lancashire in the Blast, said. “Ben is a high-class batsman and hopefully he’ll get a gig for the Hundred through that wildcard draft which is coming up.”

McDermott said: “There seemed to be a lot going on with replacement players last year and I’m sure there will be some players coming and going with international duty too. I’m definitely in that wildcard draft; at this stage I’m focused on the Blast, but the Hundred looks like a serious competition so hopefully I can pick something up.”

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