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News

Head's love affair with Adelaide continues

He has been prolific, scoring 570 runs in his last six Tests in Australia, and hit another high in front of his home crowd

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
08-Dec-2022
Travis Head on getting through the nineties: Play as straight as possible  •  Associated Press

Travis Head on getting through the nineties: Play as straight as possible  •  Associated Press

There is a lot of talk about whether the Australia men's team has fallen out of favour with the general public. Regardless of how much truth or otherwise there is around that, there could be no doubt about the affection felt for Travis Head when he brought up a hometown century at Adelaide Oval.
Most of the 24,449 spectators who attended the opening day were still there when Head drove Alzarri Joseph down the ground to bring up his fifth Test hundred from 125 balls and there was a lengthy ovation as he soaked in the moment. "The mayor of Adelaide," injured captain Pat Cummins called him during a commentary stint on Fox Cricket earlier in the innings. He was the first South Australia batter to make a hundred at the ground since Greg Blewett's debut century against England in 1994-95.
It continued a prolific home record for Head since the start of last season's Ashes where he tore apart England with an 85-ball hundred at the Gabba before capping his series with another counter-attacking display on a lively green surface in Hobart. He was Player of the Series despite missing one game with Covid-19.
Since the Gabba last season, he has so far made 570 runs in Australia at a strike-rate 87.82. Three hundreds should have been four, but he managed to chop on for 99 against Kraigg Brathwaite in Perth. After that lapse he admitted the moment could haunt him. He has quickly made amends.
"Play as straight as possible, try not to cut it off the stumps," he told Fox Cricket on what he was thinking in the 90s. "Cricket's a funny game. One run does magical things to the brain. It was a long week, nice to get over the line with the next one."
He's certainly not someone who has got the perfect forward defence, but he certainly takes attacks down and is so hard to bowl to
Marnus Labuschagne on Travis Head
The lift in batting returns, and significantly the strike-rate from before last season, are notable: in his first 19 Tests he struck at 49.65. Scoring rate is not everything in Test cricket (although try telling that to Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum) but having a counter-attacking middle-order batter, especially to follow the insatiable appetite for run-making of the team's No. 3 and 4, brings another dimension to the order.
Head has also enjoyed a prolific year in ODI cricket where he is averaging 68.75 with a strike-rate of 112.24 and this version of him is the one very familiar to those who have played against him in state cricket.
"He's always been able to change the game," Marnus Labuschagne, who also ended the opening day unbeaten with a century, said. "I've played many games against Travis when we've got South Australia on the ropes and [he] comes out and just changes the game.
"I always felt like once he played like he wanted to [in Tests] and we knew like he could, almost taking the shackles off and letting him play, he's certainly not someone who has got the perfect forward defence, but he certainly takes attacks down and is so hard to bowl to. When he's on a roll he makes big scores. He's been doing it since we were very young…so I've got so much confidence now he's playing in this manner and taking the game on."
Labuschagne also believed that Head's slightly less-than textbook technique was one of his strengths.
"He's hitting balls off the top of the stumps for four... he's just a hard person to stop when he's going because he plays a bit awkward," he said. "He sits back, gets low on that back foot, cuts the ball and carves the ball out to the off side. The Australian conditions just suit him beautifully, the bouncier wickets, with the width and just staying a little bit more leg side."
That nod to Australia conditions, and what happened between the two home summers, highlights the challenge ahead for Head. He found life much tougher in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, averaging just 15.16 with a strike-rate of 48.40 across five Tests. In February, Australia travel to India for four Tests and the notion has been floated whether he could lose his place in the XI in a horses-for-courses selection.
"They are moments that obviously stand out and it is a stat-based game," he said before the second Test. "But two series, I am early in my career still in terms of international cricket in the subcontinent. A lot of players have missed out. I'm not going to change the wheel or invent anything different."
That is in the future for Head. For now, he will still have the applause of the Adelaide crowd ringing in his ears.

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo