Matthew Wade struggles to explain it and he can't quite remember where it started, this strange compulsion. He thinks it was around five or six years ago, when he was batting with John Hastings, trying to save a game for Victoria. For a while, leading up to that game, he'd developed a superstition: at the end of each over, he'd walk along the opposite side of the pitch to his batting partner and then cross over in the middle to meet and chat. It felt unbalanced if they walked down the same side, as if the pitch were a see-saw that needed even weighting.
After batting for a long period of time, Hastings walked down the same side of the pitch. He got out next ball; that cemented it for Wade. He laughs as he talks about it, aware that it's a superstition that others may not comprehend.
"I did it for a few years without anyone really noticing while I was batting," Wade said, speaking ahead of Hobart Hurricane's semi-final against Melbourne Stars. "But then I had to start communicating it to a few people and I don't know where it's come from. I don't know how to get out of it but I just keep doing it and it's not too hard for the other player. Like I kind of just tell him to walk on one side and I'll do my thing and then come to him. I don't know where it started. It's like I feel like we're off balance if we're on the same side, it's weird."
D'Arcy Short doesn't understand it but he's more than happy to accommodate his opening partner and for good reason. The pair have blown away many bowling attacks in this year's BBL and not only do they top the individual runs tally - Short with 602 and Wade with 590 - they have added more than 800 runs together as a pair. But while their combination has been a cornerstone of the Hurricanes' success, both players insist there is nothing complicated about the way they combine.
"It just depends on how we feel in the middle," said Short. "We'll walk out there with a plan of sticking to what we know and if things change then we talk to each other. If we want to attack one bowler we'll say that's the person we're going for and we'll wing and see how we go out in the middle."
Wade believes they are intuitively aware of which player is more likely to go big at any time and, from there, strike rotation is key. That kind of unspoken awareness was central to one of their best performances of the season, when the Hurricanes secured a ten-wicket victory over Adelaide Strikers at Adelaide Oval. Chasing 155, Wade piled on an unbeaten 84 off 49 going hard at the start while Short, starting more conservatively, finished with 73 runs off 52. They passed the target with 19 balls to spare.
"We don't really communicate too much, I think you just know out on the ground," said Wade. "You can tell if he's on. I know straight away then I'll try and give him all that match up and vice versa. We don't speak about it too much, if I have a night out then he gives me more strike and I think you saw that in the Adelaide partnership. That's probably the one time that was most noticeable that D'Arcy took a back seat there for a long period of time, then towards the back end of the innings he started to feel it a bit and I got him on strike and then he went from a run-a-ball 40 to I think about 70 off 50 balls in the end and he just got going so that's probably the greatest example of it.
"Throughout our whole innings if you can just stick together your innings will just ebb and flow a little bit and the guys you want to hit will come on and off a little bit. That's probably the thing I've noticed the most in the partnership."
A feature of both player's batting this season has been the way they have scored largely through more classic cricket shots, rather than opportunistic slogging. And while they are both left-handed they have varied strengths and scoring zones; Short is strong on the leg side while Wade tends to play straighter.
"Teams try to counter that," said Wade. "They try to bowl wide to myself and they've tried to cramp D'Arcy up to give him no width so every single game you come up against another team, you've got them trying a strategy to get you out or make it harder for you to score runs."
The obvious knock-on effect of having such a strong opening partnership is the confidence it gives to the rest of the team. For Caleb Jewell, batting at No. 3 at the reasonably green age of 21, it provides a sense of calm.
"It's very comforting, I guess," he said. "It calms everyone down, just because they've been so consistent. It's nice for me coming after them knowing that one of them is probably getting going so it makes it easier for everyone else."
Wade credits the Tasmania and Hurricanes batting coach, Jeff Vaughan, for the development of younger batsmen, like Jewell, in the squad and for the tweaks he has made in his own technique in facing both the red and white ball since returning to Hobart from Melbourne. Among the changes, he now plays the moving ball a little later, tries not to chase the ball in front of him and has adjusted his stance, keeping still for longer; the tweaks have paid dividends.
"I obviously wasn't down here for the period of time where it was a bit of a struggle for the batting group and I think the young players had a few scars when I got down here," said Wade. "They just couldn't express themselves as players and I think he's given them an enormous amount of confidence to go out and play the way they want to play then be prepared to make mistakes along the way and learn from it, don't be fearful of making mistake.
"The young batting group to me looks mentally and technically as strong as I've seen down here for a long time. And then the flip side of that he's got the best out of the older players like myself, George Bailey, Alex Doolan. He's one of the best batting coaches I've worked with. I've worked with Greg Shippard, who in my eyes is one of the best coaches in Australia batting-wise, and Jeff is well and truly alongside him in my opinion."
Whether or not Wade and Short can take the Hurricanes to a BBL title remains to be seen, but beyond the season there is a clear desire to bat together for Australia. Their exclusion from the Australian ODI squad, in particular, over the summer has raised questions. In a World Cup year their performances in white-ball cricket will be difficult to ignore but Wade remains somewhat sceptical they can reproduce their chemistry in the green and gold.
"I'd love to represent Australia again but I know how it all works," said Wade. "I don't know, to be honest. I'd love for us both to go. I think D'Arcy is a really good chance. The way he's bowling as well, it's just another layer of his game. I mean you've got a guy who can hit the ball like that and then can bowl probably six or eight overs in ODIs as well so I'd be surprised if D'Arcy isn't playing. I think it's fifty-fifty for myself. It'll be a toss of the coin."