Australian export Brownlie thriving for New Zealand
The pavlova last year, Dean Brownlie this year - Western Australia's finest have been ripe for the poaching by New Zealand recently. Then again, from Russell Crowe to Keith Urban, from Ruth Park to Rebecca Gibney, Australians have been claiming New Zealand's best as their own for decades. It's about time a few went the other way.
Brownlie might have missed the news stories last December when the Oxford English Dictionary determined that pavlova was a New Zealand invention and was not, as Australians had asserted, created at Perth's Esplanade Hotel in 1935. If he hadn't caught up with those reports it would be understandable. This time last year, Brownlie was just settling in to his second season with Canterbury.
He had lived in Perth for the first 25 years of his life, his primary connection with New Zealand the fact that his father was born in Christchurch. Now, he is not only playing Test cricket against Australia, but thriving: in the first Test he was New Zealand's leading scorer, with a fighting 77 not out in the first innings and 42 in the second.
It was the kind of performance that made onlookers wonder how Brownlie had spent so long in Perth club cricket without earning a place in Western Australia's side. He played some junior cricket with Shaun Marsh, but by his own admission wasn't seriously in the reckoning for a state call-up.
"I don't think I was that close," Brownlie told reporters in Brisbane, before the team flew to Hobart for the second Test. "I was scoring a few runs, but given the quality of players in WA, probably didn't score enough runs to demand a spot. It was more a cricketing decision [to move to New Zealand]. I just wanted to give it a go and see what happened. If I got a first-class game - awesome."
Brownlie's efforts in the Gabba Test certainly left more of a mark on Michael Hussey than any grade performances in Perth over the past few years. Hussey said he didn't remember playing club cricket against Brownlie, but he was impressed by his work in Brisbane.
"I thought he played very well," Hussey said. "He showed great temperament, against some pretty hostile bowling there for a while, coming in for the second innings in particular when the team was under extreme pressure, I thought he applied himself really well. It is a shame we couldn't keep him in Australia ... but I thought he played really well, showed a great temperament and a good, solid technique as well."
Brownlie, 27, has now scored two half-centuries from his two Tests and appears to be one of the most stable parts of a faltering batting order. He hopes he can continue to thwart the Australians, his countrymen for most of his life, when the second Test starts at Bellerive on Friday.
"Two years ago I was playing club cricket in Christchurch. I never thought I'd be at the Gabba playing a Test match. It was awesome," he said. "I haven't really had too much to do with them [the Australian team], so it wasn't really a change of scenery. It was an awesome experience."
And it was one that wouldn't have come without gambling on a trip across the ditch.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo