No-one was more excited than Jake Weatherald to be playing in Geelong on Thursday evening and the Adelaide Strikers opener hopes his match-winning hand can kick-start his Big Bash season.
The seaside Victorian city was treated to a clinic from Weatherald, a fervent supporter of local Australian Football League side the Geelong Cats, who posted a match-winning 71 off 44 balls including three sixes.
The left-hander was the only batter from either side to pass 24 on the oddly-proportioned GHMBA Stadium pitch, set diagonally across the ground to comply with minimum ICC boundary length requirements ahead of the 2020 World Cup.
Opening partner Alex Carey suggested he was "batting on a different wicket to everyone else" and he might not have been far off the mark.
Weatherald wore a navy blue and white-hooped Cats guernsey to training on match eve, living out a boyhood dream that started when he played for the Larrakia Cats growing up in Darwin.
"It's just cool to be out here," the 24-year-old, who met Geelong star Patrick Dangerfield at the toss, told cricket.com.au. "When I was sitting in the outfield and wasn't doing too much at one stage, I was just thinking about all the great footballers who I'd grown up watching who had been out here."
Tipped by many to have a standout Big Bash campaign after a match-winning century in last season's final, Weatherald instead endured sluggish start to BBL08 in posting four scores between 11 and 32.
It turned out to be some sage tactical advice from Carey that unlocked his breakout performance.
"We were speaking at the start (of the innings) and I was telling him it was probably the best time to bat," Carey explained to cricket.com.au.
"It probably just changed his mindset, it just forced some intent, and we got off to a flyer."
Added Weatherald: "'Kez' (Carey) came up to me and said, 'Someone's got to go here, the wicket is quite tough, new ball, two (fielders) out – let's just try and take it on'.
"I just thought that was my chance to take the game on a little bit and it paid off."
Weatherald smacked six boundaries in the Power Play, including three straight off Renegades quick Usman Shinwari, before feasting on the short square boundaries with a series of pulled sixes.
The subsequent batting struggles of Weatherald's teammates and the Renegades during their lacklustre reply of 9-126 highlighted how well he'd played to lift the Strikers to 158.
"I thought I was hitting them really well for most of the tournament, getting starts, contributing at the top, but just not kicking on with that match-winning performance," said Weatherald.
"Thankfully today I was able to contribute a few more runs."
Three Strikers batters – Weatherald, Carey and skipper Colin Ingram – have already passed 100 runs for the tournament.
And while they will lose Carey to Australia's ODI squad, the opening batsman's absence will be offset when Travis Head, a surprise omission from that squad, returns after the Tests against India.
"It's someone different's turn every time," said Weatherald. "'Col' batted well the last game, 'Kez' played well in the first game and one other game.
"If you take your opportunity to go deep, you've just got to make it count."