JLT Sheffield Shield 2017-18
Winter hopes he won't be left out in the cold
Rookie quick reflects on record-breaking start as South Australia prepare to welcome back four international players
20 February 2018, 09:04 PM AEST
Having swiftly secured himself a place in South Australia’s lengthy cricket history, swing bowling sensation Nick Winter is now left to worry about maintaining his berth in the team for the next game.
In only his second first-class appearance last week, Winter earned player-of-the-match honours in the West End Redbacks' seven-wicket victory over New South Wales at the SCG after snaring figures of 10-109 across two innings with his left-armers.
That followed the 5-85 the 24-year-old claimed in his maiden first-class bowling stint against Victoria in Adelaide a week earlier.
Making the Canberra recruit the first SA bowler since George Giffen in the Shield's inaugural season of 1892-93 to claim three five-wicket hauls in his first two appearances.
And also ensuring he's the first among any first-class team in Australia to manage that feat since Pat Crawford, who played for the Blues alongside Keith Miller, Alan Davidson and Richie Benaud in the mid-1950s.
But having announced himself as the most exciting young swing bowler in the nation, especially with the English-made Dukes ball in hand as per the playing conditions for the second half of the Shield summer, Winter admits he's no sure thing to keep his spot for the game against ladder leaders Queensland starting at Adelaide Oval on Sunday.
That's because, unlike so many barren decades when fast bowling stocks in Adelaide were about as plentiful as water flow through the Murray Mouth, he is one of four top-flight quicks pushing for selection with a fifth (attack leader Chadd Sayers) absent due to Test squad duties in South Africa.
The imminent return of Australia limited-overs paceman Kane Richardson from the current Qantas Tour of New Zealand means the Redbacks are spoiled for new-ball options with their two leading wicket-takers of the season to date – Joe Mennie and Daniel Worrall – also in the mix.
In addition, captain Travis Head, keeper Alex Carey and leg-spinner Adam Zampa are also due to arrive back in Adelaide from Auckland on Thursday, which will ensure sweeping changes to the SA line-up that surged back into Shield contention with their win in Sydney last weekend.
"It’s hard to say, obviously Kane (Richardson) and Adam (Zampa) and Alex (Carey) and Travis (Head) are all international players," Winter said on Tuesday when asked if he expected to retain his berth given his recent results.
"We’ve also got Chadd (Sayers) away, so it's great to have five Australian players for South Australian cricket and I’m just grateful to be in amongst the group.
"If I play I'll do my best, but I'm obviously understanding that Kane is an Australian bowler and Joe (Mennie) and Frank (Worrall) have had great success for South Australia in past years.
"So it’s going to be tough to crack that.
"But I’m confident in my ability, if I get to play again on Sunday, to do a job."
That level of assuredness might be the result of just two appearances at Sheffield Shield level, but they are underpinned by years of earnest toil, steady improvement and crushing disappointment that remain the central characters in the back story of most overnight sports sensations.
In Winter’s case, his 'arrival' came more than three years after he made his KFC Big Bash League debut for Melbourne Renegades and then a series of poorly-timed injuries saw him lose his state contract with SA, where he had served as a rookie-listed player for three seasons.
So in order to push his claims for a senior deal with the Redbacks – a contract he ultimately secured last year – Winter signed with Plumtree in England’s Nottinghamshire Premier League where his skills set grew to include a familiarity with the Dukes ball.
"It was a bit of a learning experience in England," Winter recalled.
"I had just lost my contract so I went over there to regain some confidence and I guess the lessons I learned with the Dukes ball there have held me in good stead here.
"It’s been a simple formula for me, just bowl full and swing the ball and so far it’s worked."
To have – in less than a fortnight - evolved from receiving his SA cap, to boasting a Shield bowling average (15.73) and strike rate (35.07) that’s bettered only by NSW quick Mitchell Starc and Tasmania's own Canberra recruit Tom Rogers (among those with 10 wickets or more) – has caught the Adelaide University student a little off-guard.
Winter admits he took a moment, while stationed at fine leg towards the end of NSW's second innings last weekend, to gaze at the SCG's historic members' pavilion and change rooms where his name now adorns the visitors' honour board recognising bowlers to have taken 10 wickets in a match.
But he also gained almost as much satisfaction from his effort with the bat in SA's first innings, although his knock of one - scored in 42 minutes and from 20 balls faced - is unlikely to excite interest from stats junkies in the way his maiden bowling efforts have.
That’s because the 44 runs he added for the final wicket not only enabled the Redbacks to build a small but significant lead over the Blues, it also allowed teammate Tom Cooper to complete a deeply personal, unbeaten century at a ground that still carries great sadness for both sides.
It was the second match between the teams – who famously faced off in the Shield's inaugural fixture in 1892 – at the SCG since the tragic death of SA's NSW-born opener Phillip Hughes, an event that occurred when Cooper (Hughes's then housemate) was at the non-striker's end.
"My goal was to get Tom to his hundred," Winter said.
"I think I came in when he was on 70, so to be there and survive 20 balls to get him there.
"It was pretty special for me to see him do well on a ground that he’d had some past troubles at, so for Tom it was a massive thing.
"And I think, in terms of the game, that extra 40 or 50 runs that Tom put on there probably won us the match."