Australia-capped fast bowler Wes Agar heads a raft of state-contracted players to have signed on for this year’s Strike League limited-overs competition that begins in Darwin later this month.
Agar made his international debut in Australia’s ODI series in the Caribbean last July, but then endured a frustrating home summer in which he battled injuries and illness and was restricted to a handful of Marsh One-Day Cup games for South Australia and seven BBL outings with Adelaide Strikers.
The 25-year-old will turn out for Northern Tide – coached by former Australia batter now SA assistant coach, Mark Cosgrove – in the four-team Strike League that features a mix of one-day and T20 matches over a six-week period from June 26-August 7.
His prospective teammates for the Top End tournament, which is part of Northern Territory’s revamped Cricket 365 program, include young Victoria batter Jake Fraser-McGurk, Queensland quick James Bazley and Western Australia’s ex-NSW recruit, Charlie Stobo.
Tasmania’s rookie-listed ambidextrous spinner Nivethan Radhakrishnan has also signed for Northern Tide, where Agar is looking to rediscover the white-ball form that saw him gain an Australia cap when regular representatives the likes of Pat Cummins and Kane Richardson were unavailable.
“I was discussing what my options were for the off-season, and when I found out about the Strike League in Darwin and it suited perfectly,” Agar told cricket.com.au.
“I think white ball is my strongest format and it’s a format where I can really push my case to play at the next level.
“So if I can gain a greater understanding of my game in that format, I’m hoping it will really help my development for both the (Adelaide) Strikers and for SA in the Marsh (One Day) Cup, but also hopefully to get back in the mix and push my case for higher honours.”
Agar was also persuaded to undertake an off-season in the Top End by his SA teammate Henry Hunt, who is currently a member of the Australia A team in Sri Lanka where they are playing a series of limited-overs and first-class matches against Sri Lanka a.
Hunt has been earmarked as a future Australia opener having shared last season’s Marsh Sheffield Shield Player of the Year honor with Victoria’s Travis Dean, and has cited his experience in the Strike League over several southern winters as a key factor in his career progression.
“That’s another thing that helped convince me, when he (Hunt) said how it changed his career basically,” Agar said.
“He was unsure initially about whether to go up to Darwin, and then decided he’d go and the year after that he scored a bucket load of runs in the Futures League and the rest took care of itself.
“So that was another factor that I considered.
“I thought ‘well, it’s helped him’ and he’s a guy that I look to as a best mate and also someone who’s word I trust, so I took that on board as well.”
When NT Cricket launched its Cricket 365 Program last year, it was cited as a means by which Australia players could gain year-round access to matches without the need to travel overseas in the off-season.
However, the impact of COVID-19 last year meant a number of players who had hoped to take part in the Strike League were unable to fulfill their commitments, and plans to have KFC BBL clubs Melbourne Stars and Melbourne Renegades take part were also shelved.
With the return of overseas travel this year, plus Australia and Australia A men’s teams facing a hectic winter schedule, numbers of Cricket Australia and state-contracted players available to travel to the Top End are limited.
But that hasn’t stopped several experienced and aspiring players heading to Darwin to gain valuable match experience.
Immediately following the Strike League competition, the NT will host a Top End T20 tournament that features both the Stars and Renegades academy outfits as well as Papua New Guinea’s national men’s team and combined XIs fielded by CA and the NT.
Agar won’t be available for that T20 tournament as he has opted to return to Adelaide to continue his pre-season training with South Australia Redbacks, but a number of other interstate players taking part in the Strike League competition are expected to be available.
Among those are prolific Tasmania opener Tim Ward, SA pace bowler Jordan Buckingham and rookie-listed pair Hugo Burdon (Queensland) and Ashley Chadrasinghe (Victoria) who will turn out for City Cyclones.
Southern Storm’s list features WA’s Sam Fanning, Tasmania’s Brad Hope, Queensland’s Jack Clayton and rookie-contracted Bailey Capel (SA) and Mitch Owen (Tasmania), while Desert Blaze have signed WA opener Jayden Goodwin and spinner Corey Rocchiccioli, Queensland’s Max Bryant, Victoria’s Tom O’Connell and SA-capped all-rounder Corey Kelly who is taking a break from state-level cricket.
2022-23 Australian home international schedule
(all times local)
Men’s Dettol ODI Series v Zimbabwe
Sunday Aug 28: Riverway Stadium, Townsville, 9:40 a.m.
Wednesday Aug 31: Riverway Stadium, Townsville, 9:40 a.m.
Saturday September 3: Riverway Stadium, Townsville, 9:40 a.m.
Men’s Dettol ODI Series v New Zealand
Tuesday, September 6: Cazaly Stadium, Cairns, 2:20 p.m.
Thursday, September 8: Cazaly Stadium, Cairns, 2:20 p.m.
Sunday September 11: Cazaly Stadium, Cairns, 2:20 p.m.
Men’s Dettol T20I Series v West Indies
Wednesday Oct 5: Metricon Stadium, Gold Coast, 6:10 p.m.
Friday October 7: Metricon Stadium, Gold Coast, 6:10 p.m.
Men’s Dettol T20I Series v England
Sunday Oct 9: The Gabba, 5:40 p.m.
Wednesday Oct 12: Manuka Oval, Canberra 6:40pm
Friday October 14: Manuka Oval, Canberra 6:40pm
ICC Men’s T20 World Cup
Oct 16-21: group stage
Oct 22-Nov 6: super 12 stages
Wed-Thurs Nov 9-10: Semi-finals, SCG & Adelaide Oval
Sunday November 13: final, MCG, 7pm
Men’s Dettol ODI Series v England
Thursday November 17: Adelaide Oval, 1:50 p.m.
Saturday November 19: SCG, 2:20 p.m.
Tuesday November 22: MCG, 2:20 p.m.
Men’s Vodafone Test Series v West Indies
Nov 30 – Dec 4: First Test, Perth Stadium, 10:20am
Dec 8-12: Second Test, Adelaide Oval, 2:30pm
Men’s Vodafone Test Series v South Africa
Dec 17-21: First Test, the Gabba, 10:20am
Dec 26-30: Second Test, MCG, 10:30am
January 4-8: Third Test, SCG, 10:30 a.m.
Men’s Dettol ODI Series v South Africa
*Dates subject to confirmation
Thursday January 12: Blundstone Arena, Hobart, 1:30 p.m.
Saturday Jan 14: SCG, 12:40 p.m.
Tuesday Jan 17: Perth Stadium, 12:40 p.m.
Women’s CommBank ODI Series v Pakistan
Monday January 16: Allan Border Field, Brisbane 10:05am
Wednesday January 18: Allan Border Field, Brisbane 10:05am
Saturday January 21: North Sydney Oval, 10:05 a.m.
Women’s CommBank T20I Series v Pakistan
Tuesday January 24: North Sydney Oval, 1:45pm
Friday January 27: Manuka Oval, Canberra, 7:05pm
Sunday January 29: Manuka Oval, Canberra, 1:45pm