Mason Sidney Crane
February 18, 1997, Shoreham-by-Sea, Sussex
Right hand bat
As an eight-year-old only child watching the 2005 Ashes series, Mason Crane was inspired by the bewitching displays of Shane Warne. From that moment he wanted to be a legspinner. Twelve years later he made his England debut in Twenty20 cricket and to cap the summer, at 21, he was chosen for England's Ashes tour party.
Life had not always been that rewarding. When his home county, Sussex, left him out of their Under-14 squad he was bereft - for many a lad that would be the end of the story - but he was fortunate enough to be a pupil at Lancing College whose cricket master, Raj Maru, was a former Hampshire left-arm spinner and involved with the county academy. With the help of Maru and the Hampshire academy spin coach, Darren Flint, he soon won England call-ups at England U-17 and U-19 level.
Crane made his Hampshire 1st XI debut against Surrey at the Ageas Bowl and took 2 for 35 as he dismissed Kumar Sangakkara - quite a first wicket - with a rank full toss and Vikram Solanki, stumped in more orthodox fashion. A few weeks later, against Warwickshire at the Ageas Bowl, Crane became the youngest Hampshire player to take a five-wicket haul in the Championship.
Crane's second season was harder going, although only Ryan McLaren took more than his 31 Championship wickets. He was hardly used in the T20 Blast but had long, career-forming bowls in the Royal London Cup.
A winter was planned with the former Australia legspinner Stuart MacGill in Sydney. Back-to-back seven wickets hauls for Gordon CC in Australia earned him a call-up to the New South Wales side in the Sheffield Shield, making him the first overseas player since Imran Khan in 1984/85 to play State cricket in Australia and his reputation was further enhanced when he impressed in the 2017 North vs South series in the UAE.
England's growing interest was apparent when the national selector, James Whitaker, expressed frustration over Crane's omission from a Hampshire Championship side early in 2017 (he was to play only half the 14 matches and 16 wickets at 44.69 was nothing to write home about), but like several English legspinners he was making a home for himself in Twenty20. Ahead of an excellent Blast season, England gave him his first two T20Is the first on his home ground against South Africa, and AB de Villiers was his maiden international victim.
His call-up to the Ashes tour party that winter was less justified by statistics, and he had a tough time on debut in Sydney, his single wicket costing 193 runs as he leaked more than four runs per over, but it was important to retain perspective given he was still only 20 years old.
In 2018, he played through pain-killing injections in the Royal London Cup after suffering a stress fracture that kept him out of action for the rest of the season, and he had a mixed time of it the following summer: he was again prolific in white-ball cricket, but struggled badly in the Championship, returning five wickets at an average over 100 in his six appearances.
Hampshire's signing of Nathan Lyon as their Championship overseas player in 2020 suggested his red-ball opportunities would continue to be limited, but when that deal was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic and Liam Dawson was called up by England and then injured, Crane had four games in which to impress. He responded with 14 wickets at 13.57, with nine more in the Blast at a miserly economy rate of 6.60.
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