After a dream first full season behind the stumps for South Australia, wicketkeeper Alex Carey has received a surprise call-up to the Australia A squads to tour South Africa later this year.
Carey was named as the sole gloveman in the squad for the two four-day matches against the Proteas' A side, as well as the one-day squad to compete in a tri-series featuring India A.
Quick Single: Huge names in Australia A squads
Possessing excellent technique and supreme athleticism behind the pegs, Carey has clearly caught the eye of national selectors in a record-breaking season with the Redbacks.
With his sixth catch of the Shield final in Alice Springs, Carey completed his 59th dismissal of the season to go past the competition benchmark of 58 set by Queensland gloveman Wade Seccombe in 2000-01, and matched by his Bulls successor Chris Hartley in 2011-12.
It was a tremendous achievement considering he'd only replaced Tim Ludeman as South Australia's first-choice four-day gloveman during the previous summer.
"It’s quite nice to be up with the quality of players likes Chris Hartley and those guys," Carey said after day three of the Shield final.
"A lot goes towards the bowlers that’s for sure.
"It’s not a bad season I guess."
While wicketkeeping statistics are difficult to get an accurate measure on, considering they are often only as good as the bowlers they play with, Carey’s tidy glovework has been acknowledged a number of good judges, including Hartley himself.
Despite South Australia losing the Shield final convincingly to Victoria, Carey's skilled glovework was on full display. His one-handed effort to remove Tremain in the first-innings for a duck was particularly impressive.
Carey admitted he'd been thrilled at the praise from Hartley, a player he’d counted as an one of his idols growing up alongside the legendary Adam Gilchrist and current Test ‘keeper Matthew Wade.
"It’s pretty humbling, a guy like that speaking the words he did," Carey said in reference to Hartley’s praise.
"He’s a guy I looked up to coming through (junior ranks) as a left-hand batsman, along with Gilly and Matthew Wade."
Carey also showed his ability with the blade on day three with a vital half-century in the Redbacks’ first-innings, notching his 500th run for the Shield season.
In doing so becoming just the fourth player to complete the 50 dismissal, 500-run double in a Shield season; Gilchrist was the first player achieve the feat in 1995-96, Hartley is the only man to have do it multiple times (in 2008-09, 2011-12 and 2012-13), while Wade also managed it during the 2008-09 season.
It was the sort of form that had Jason Gillespie calling for Carey to be taken with the Test squad to India as the back-up wicketkeeper. Gillespie will be head coach of the 'A' Tour, with other former Test stars Chris Rogers and, crucially for Carey, Brad Haddin as assistants.
By Carey’s own admission his Shield dismissals record had much to do with the quality of South Australia’s pace attack, who regularly found the edge of the bat.
But the competition’s leading wicket taker Chadd Sayers insisted his teammate has barely let a chance slip.
"I reckon he’s only dropped two catches for the whole season,” said Sayers, who’s fed Carey 20 of his 58 catches this summer.
"He’s had a great season. His glovework this year has been outstanding.
"He’s taken some hangers as well. It’s good to see him doing well."
The left-hander also scored a valiant half-century during the Shield final, with his lower-order effort of 57 giving the Redbacks small hope of remaining in the hunt for the title.
Carey was the only South Australia batsmen to consistently employ the sweep-shot to counter the threat of Jon Holland, who collected a devastating seven-wicket haul in their first-innings at Traeger Park.
His slog-swept six off the spinner, the only maximum of the innings and comfortably the biggest hit of the match, was a stroke that would have made Gilchrist proud.
And like Gilchrist, Redbacks skipper Travis Head said Carey’s the type of player that has the ability to turn a match in quick time.
"He’s had a fantastic season,” Head said ahead of the decider.
"He’s been fantastic in big moments in games. He’s bound to come out and change a game.
"He’s definitely a player that can come in and take the game away from you. He’s a very positive player and backs himself."
Most dismissals in a Sheffield Shield season
- Alex Carey (SA) 2016-17 – 59 dismissals*
- Wade Seccombe (QLD) 2000-01 – 58
- Chris Hartley (QLD) 2011-12 – 58
- Matthew Wade (VIC) 2008-09 – 57
- Wade Seccombe (QLD) 1995-96 – 54
- Adam Gilchrist (WA) 1996-97 – 54
- Darren Berry (VIC) 1999-00 – 54
- Adam Gilchrist (WA) 1995-96 – 54
- Chris Hartley (QLD) 2008-09 – 54
- Wade Seccombe (QLD) 1999-00 – 54
Australia A tour of South Africa
Australia A four-day squad: Usman Khawaja (c), Glenn Maxwell (vc), Ashton Agar, Cameron Bancroft, Jason Behrendorff, Jackson Bird, Alex Carey, Hilton Cartwright, Travis Head, Kurtis Patterson, Chadd Sayers, Mitchell Swepson, Chris Tremain, Jack Wildermuth
Australia A one-day squad: Travis Head (c), Ashton Agar, Jason Behrendorff, Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Hilton Cartwright, Sam Heazlett, Daniel Hughes, Kane Richardson, Marcus Stoinis, Mitchell Swepson, Chris Tremain, Jack Wildermuth
12-15 July: Australia A v South Africa A, Tukkies
19-22 July: Australia A v South Africa A, Senwes Park
26 July: Australia A v India A, Tukkies
30 July: Australia A v South Africa A, Groenkloof
1 August: Australia A v India A, Tukkies
5 August: Australia A v South Africa A, Tukkies
8 August: Tri Series Final, Tukkies