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In the final, New Zealand or India will have up to face up to a bowler who's delivered for Australia at crucial times this competition
August 21, 2012
Players/Officials: Mark Steketee
Series/Tournaments: ICC Under-19 World Cup
Sites: Cricinfo ICC Site
Bangladesh's Asif Ahmed and South Africa's Chad Bowes were dismissed in similar fashion in their knockout matches against Australia in the Under-19 World Cup. Both batsmen were struck on the head by short deliveries from Mark Steketee and then caught by the wicketkeeper off fuller ones: a fast bowler's classic one-two combo.
The wicket of Bowes came at a crucial time for Australia in the semi-final at Tony Ireland Stadium. South Africa had progressed from 37 for 3 to 124 and were looking to build momentum during the batting Powerplay, taken in the 36th over. Bowes, batting on 46, tried to lap the first ball around the corner and felt the ball crash into the grille of his helmet. He needed a couple of minutes before facing the next one, which was fuller and took the outside edge of his push.
"It was a very important time in the middle of the Powerplay, just at the start," Steketee said of the importance of Bowes' wicket. "If we got a wicket there, we pegged them back from possibly getting 230-240 at the time, which we thought they would get. But we got them out and got them for 190."
Steketee also dismissed Shaylin Pillay in the last over of the Powerplay, his tenth over, to finish with figures of 3 for 35. He had also dismissed Quinton de Kock, South Africa's pace-setter, for 1 with his second ball of the morning.
Most days, a steady wind blows across Tony Ireland Stadium, a ground that is open apart from a small section protected by the grandstand, and other World Cup venues. Steketee has been given the responsibility of bowling into it, and sometimes for long spells. "I think it is just how it is," he said. "I'll do it if I have to, but if I don't have to it's a bonus. You just do it for the team and you just do your best that you can into the wind."
In the first game against England, Steketee bowled eight consecutive overs into the wind and took two wickets, and finished the match with 2 for 35 off ten. Against Ireland, he came back from a slightly expensive first spell to bowl three maidens in the second. And in the quarter-final, he took 1 for 37.
"They have been coming out good this tournament," Steketee said of his bowling. "It keeps on improving every time. You keep on learning new things."
Steketee was born in Warwick, Queensland but lives in Brisbane. He played for Queensland Under-17s in the Australian Championships in 2010-11, taking ten wickets in five games. In the summer of 2011, Steketee went to England to play for Bexhill in the Sussex Cricket League and later that year he won speed competition for fast bowlers in Queensland at the Gabba. After taking 6 for 16 on debut for Souths in grade cricket in January 2012, Steketee played for Queensland Under-19 in the Australian National Championships a few days later. The quadrangular series in Townsville, involving Australia, New Zealand, England and India, was his first call-up to the national Under-19 team.
Through all this, Steketee's worked with Craig McDermott, who said he'd been working with the Under-19 fast bowler since he was about 14. Until recently, former Test bowler McDermott was the bowling coach of the senior Australia team but he is presently part of the Under-19 management group in Townsville.
"He's [McDermott] been a major help to my game," Steketee said. "I wouldn't be standing here today if it wasn't for him and his input. I think he helps my bowling a lot, consistency wise and picking up little things that I am doing wrong along the way."
McDermott's mantra to the Australia's Under-19 fast bowlers has been to pitch it up on a fourth or fifth stump line outside off and be patient. The short ball has been used only as a variation, rather than a regular attacking option, despite the bounce on offer in the pitches.
"You can't just run up and expect it to happen, you have to actually make it happen and bowl in the right areas and still do good things with the ball," Steketee said when asked about the importance of making the bowling-first advantage count. "Obviously the new ball helps, it does a bit, swings a bit especially under heavy cloud conditions like today, so you just grab your opportunity as they come."
Come Sunday, either India or New Zealand will be in Steketee's sights. He's on a hat-trick of felling batsmen with the old one-two.
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