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The 2011-12 Australian summer begins on Sunday with a one-day match between Queensland and Victoria, before the opening Sheffield Shield round starts on Tuesday. ESPNcricinfo looks at some of the young men to keep an eye on this season
October 7, 2011
Stars line up for Sheffield Shield opener
Players/Officials: Joe Burns | Nathan Coulter-Nile | Pat Cummins | Ben Cutting | Theo Doropoulos | James Faulkner | Marcus Harris | Jayde Herrick | Nic Maddinson | Glenn Maxwell | Kane Richardson | Tom Triffitt
Series/Tournaments: Australian Domestic Season
New South Wales
At 18, Cummins is one of the most exciting prospects in Australia, and is set to make his international debut in the limited-overs games in South Africa later this month. Despite having taken only nine first-class wickets, Cummins' pace excited Australia's selectors so much that they gave him a central contract this year. But he missed the Australia A tour of Zimbabwe due to a back strain and the key question surrounding Cummins this summer is how his young body will handle a full season of first-class cricket. If he gets through without a problem, a baggy green won't be far away.
As if New South Wales don't have enough top-class openers, they discovered another one last summer. Maddinson, now 19, scored a century opening the batting in his first-class debut and added a second hundred later in the season. It was enough to earn him Australia A selection and he made 63 in one of his two one-day innings on the tour of Zimbabwe, before a calf strain ruled him out of the first-class matches. A classical left-hander with a cool head, Maddinson has every chance of following his flatmate Usman Khawaja into Australia's Test team in the future.
Two years ago, Cutting topped the Sheffield Shield wicket list with 46 victims at 23.91 and he could have pushed for international selection during the following year but for an ankle injury that was so serious it required surgery. He managed only one Sheffield Shield game last summer but has been named in Queensland's squad for their opening matches this season. A seamer who gets good bounce from the pitch, Cutting, 24, will be keen to cut back into Australia's pace-bowling queue with a strong season for the Bulls.
At 21, Burns is - along with the more established Chris Lynn - the future of Queensland's middle order. A right-hand batsman whose talent was identified early, it took until the tail-end of last summer for Burns to force his way into the state team. When he did, he showed his hunger with an unbeaten 140 in his first game, the third-highest score on debut by a Queensland player. Another half-century followed in his third match and he finished the season averaging 70.25. In the Queensland side from the start of this summer, Burns could progress in leaps and bounds.
As the only import in a South Australia squad that the new coach Darren Berry wanted to be based mostly on local talent, Doropoulos has been given a golden opportunity. During his four seasons with Western Australia, Doropoulos, a batting allrounder, was considered not to have made the most of his natural talents. He moved to Melbourne last season and won the Jack Ryder Medal as the best player in grade cricket, and will relish the chance to score runs on the friendly Adelaide Oval. At 26, he cannot afford to waste such a second chance.
It's a new era for South Australia's fast bowlers, with Shaun Tait now a Twenty20-only player and Ben Edmondson, Rob Cassell, Chris Duval and Tim Lang also gone from last year's contract list. Young fast men will be given plenty of chances and Richardson, 20, will be one of the first on the list. A right-armer who gets the ball to swing in, Richardson collected five wickets in his first-class debut towards the end of last summer and could challenge Peter George to be the Redbacks' main strike bowler this season.
A left-arm pace-bowling allrounder, Faulkner took giant strides last season and not only finished up fourth on the Sheffield Shield wicket tally with 36 at 17.72, he also won the Ricky Ponting Medal as Tasmania's best player for the season. Faulkner, 21, was picked for the Australia A tour of Zimbabwe but didn't travel due to glandular fever. He has recovered and was named in Tasmania's squads for the opening matches of this season and with John Hastings out for the summer, an ODI call-up is a possibility if he can extend his strong first-class form to the one-day arena.
Tim Paine's broken finger means that Triffitt, 20, will be the starting wicketkeeper for Tasmania in the early matches this season. Described by the state captain George Bailey as "a natural gloveman", Triffitt was part of Australia's Under-19 World Cup-winning squad last year and made a vital 50 in the semi-final. His challenge this summer is to bring his batting skills to first-class cricket.
A heavily-tattooed fast bowler who shaves his head before every match, Herrick was this time last year making a dollar by driving heavy machinery in a quarry. At 26, he now has a Victoria contract and has impressed the captain Cameron White with his work during the off-season, after making his state debut last summer. "It's his first pre-sason having full-time coaching and he's improved out of sight," White said this week. "He's set for a big season."
A powerful batsman who hovered on the fringes of Victoria's side for several seasons, Maxwell certainly grabbed his opportunity last summer. In his second first-class match, he scored 103 not out and 63, having earlier in the season blasted a 19-ball half-century - an Australian domestic record - in a one-day match against Tasmania. Also a useful offspinner, Maxwell, 22, has a chance to make himself a permanent member of Victoria's side in both formats this season.
A tall fast bowler who picked up 21 Sheffield Shield wickets at 22.04 last summer after injuries affected the start of his season, Coulter-Nile is regarded by the Western Australia coach Mickey Arthur as "the one player in this group who will definitely go on and play higher". At 23, he has started to find his feet at interstate level and is expected to be a key man in the Warriors' attack this season.
Finding the right opening combination had been a problem for Western Australia over the past few seasons, so the Warriors were excited when Harris grabbed his chance last summer. In his third Sheffield Shield game, Harris became the youngest Australian to score a first-class 150, when he made 157 against Queensland at the WACA. That effort broke a 115-year-old record set by Clem Hill, and confirmed Harris, who is now 19, as an important part of Western Australia's future. A short left-hander, Harris will be aiming to forge a strong opening bond with Wes Robinson in the longer format.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Brydon Coverdale
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