Vidler's need for speed puts Pakistan in his sights

Queensland tearaway Callum Vidler has made waves with his stump-flattening exploits at the U19 World Cup and tonight hopes to bowl Australia into the final

A decade ago, a wide-eyed eight-year-old watched awestruck as Mitchell Johnson curled his moustache, stared down England's batters and claimed a bucketload of wickets in the 2013-14 home Ashes.

When Ryan Harris bowled Alastair Cook first ball of the innings in the Perth Test, that young boy decided he wanted to steam in with the ball in hand, and just bowl fast.

Today Callum Vidler is making heads turn doing just that at the U19 World Cup, the leading wicket-taker for Australia as they enter tonight's semi-final clash with Pakistan (7pm AEDT, Amazon Prime Video).

"It's hard not to be inspired to become a fast bowler watching that as a young kid," Vidler tells ICC.

"I thought to myself, 'I want to do that', you know? Bowl fast. Just run in and bowl fast.

"Watching them was my initial inspiration to take up cricket and fast bowling."

Every Mitchell Johnson wicket from the 2013-14 Ashes

Inspired by fellow Queenslanders Johnson and Harris, Vidler went from backyard cricket through the ranks at Queensland, picking the brains of former Australia star Andy Bichel along the way, and more recently, Queensland Cricket coach Hamish Bennett.

"They have been helping me keep it nice and simple and bowl my best ball and back myself to deliver and hopefully change a game," Vidler says.

Throughout his rise through age-group ranks, one thing remained constant – his love for bowling fast. It's the "whole point" of doing what he does, says the young Australian tearaway: simply bowling fast.

"If anyone ever tells me to slow down, I am not listening to them," he says.

"Pace is my point of difference, my best attribute.

"I have also been learning to use it wisely, not having just pace, but to swing the ball, using my variations and all.

"But if someone told me to slow down, it's never working. The whole point is to bowl fast."

Vidler claims he was clocked at 143kph recently, and believes he might be even faster now.

For someone raised on watching Johnson bounce out batters with intimidating pace, Vidler is a lot more subdued with his aggression, mixing short balls with delivered pitched up in pursuit of swing, aiming to hit good areas, attack the stumps and force errors with variations in length.

It's what he did against England in what was his best performance in the tournament so far when he claimed 4-29.

"In the first 10 overs I look to swing the ball and try and attack the stumps, but I also like using the bumper to surprise the batter and not get predictable with my length," Vidler explains.

The youngster's discipline is evident from his numbers too. No bowler in the ongoing tournament has a better average than Vidler's 7.81. The 11 wickets he has taken has come at a miserly economy of 3.55.

Vidler, however, is quick to insist that that is a product of teamwork. "We have bowled our best when we have built pressure as a unit," he says.

"Tom Straker, Charlie Anderson haven't quite been lucky in the wickets department, but they have built the pressure. And Mahli [Beardman] and myself have been able to be rewarded with a few wickets.

"Early on, we want to build pressure by attacking the stumps and keeping the heat on."

While Johnson and Harris inspired Vidler to take up fast bowing, the 18-year-old says he's "not tall enough or scary enough" to mimic the legendary left-armer's reputation, and now looks to Pat Cummins as his role model.

"In my younger teenage years, watching Pat Cummins, with his skill and pace, just being a class above everyone else, it's inspired me and I definitely look up to him," Vidler says.

"Hopefully we can continue the track record of Australia doing great in ICC tournaments."

A final against India awaits but Australia must first face Pakistan in tonight's semi-final, who are also unbeaten in the tournament so far, and Vidler believes Australia's bond and unity as a group will see them through.

That unity has been forged through tough tours and predicaments on and off the field. "Pretty much all of our squad members have known each other before (this tournament). The tour of England (in 2023) – playing ODI and red-ball games against another U19 side helped a lot," says Vidler.

"It was the first away tour for cricket for a lot of us. You don't just learn on the field with these trips, a lot of the learning happens off the field too. It's helped the team bond, looking out for each other and ourselves on the tour."

Vidler has plenty of respect for Pakistan's pace attack, and says his side will be wary of Ubaid Shah, in particular.

"Pakistan have an awesome pace attack," Vidler says. "Ubaid, Naseem Shah's brother, has been taking many wickets and stepping up in the big games.

"There are a few other tall guys, it's going to be a great battle. But we believe our quicks can out-do their fast bowlers.

"The battle between us and their batters will be an intriguing one.

"We want to have a crack at their batters and stick to our skills."

Australia's Under 19 World Cup 2024 fixtures

Jan 22: Australia beat Namibia by four wickets

Jan 25: Australia beat Zimbabwe by 225 runs

Jan 28: Australia beat Sri Lanka by six wickets

Jan 31: Australia beat England by 110 runs (DLS)

Feb 2: No result v West Indies

Feb 8: Second semi-final, Australia v Pakistan, Benoni, 7pm AEDT, Prime Video

Feb 11: Final, Benoni, 7pm AEDT, Prime Video

Full tournament fixtures can be found here

Australia squad: Lachlan Aitken, Charlie Anderson, Harkirat Bajwa, Mahli Beardman, Tom Campbell, Harry Dixon, Ryan Hicks, Sam Konstas, Rafael MacMillan, Aidan O’Connor, Oliver Peake, Harjas Singh, Tom Straker, Callum Vidler, Hugh Weibgen