England v Australia T20Is - Men's
Speedster Meredith on target to realise Aussie dreams
Tasmania quick Riley Meredith focused on return to action after receiving huge boost as selectors included him in Australia's 26-man plans for a UK tour
17 July 2020, 04:12 PM AEST
On a stormy Launceston evening on the penultimate day of 2019, Riley Meredith sent a terrifying reminder of why he's one of the most feared and highly regarded young quicks in the country.
Charging in to bowl on a surface that had been quickened up by rain from a brief but spectacular thunderstorm, Meredith fired in a good-length delivery that Stars batsman Marcus Stoinis, who had misread the length and attempted to duck underneath, watched cannon into his helmet.
The thundering crack on Stoinis' grille after the ball skidded off the surface quickly gave way to a sense of relief as batsman signalled to bowler that he was shaken, but unhurt.
For a man capable of clocking speeds up to 152kph, hitting people is something Meredith has had to become accustomed to.
Not even his own teammates are safe; the 24-year-old inadvertently sidelined Jordan Silk for a month last October when he broke the right-hander's wrist during a training session in Hobart.
"It does rattle you a bit," Meredith told cricket.com.au this week after he'd been named in Australia's 26-player group ahead of a proposed white-ball tour of England in September.
"You're obviously not going out there with the intention to hurt people, especially your own teammates.
"But you're giving 100 per cent every time you go out there so those things can happen.
"You've got to take it in your stride, but it certainly does rattle you when you see someone get hit."
Jeff Thomson infamously declared in the 1970s that he preferred to hit batsmen than get them out, but that's certainly not Meredith's approach.
However, his searing pace and impressive late swing have caught the eye of national selectors and now have him on the verge of breaking onto the international stage.
And despite his relaxed attitude and economy of words, Meredith says he doesn't lack for aggression and competitiveness when he's out in the middle.
"That comes out every time I get hit for a boundary," he says with a laugh.
"It comes out a little bit, but not as badly as some people. I try and keep my cool most of the time.
"It comes out naturally when you get into a game scenario. You're always on edge a bit and fired up … I just try not to go too far over the top."
Meredith's maiden call-up into a senior Australian playing group has been some time coming, with the likes of Shane Warne, Brett Lee and Mitchell Johnson unabashed fans of the pacey right-armer.
He concedes it's "definitely a bit surreal" to see his name alongside Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood, although it remains unclear if he'll make the final cut for the tour, or indeed if the campaign will go ahead at all.
But after a frustrating and at times bizarre finish to last season, all Meredith wants to do is start playing again.
Having suffered a tournament-ending side strain just a week after hitting Stoinis in that BBL game, the Tasmanian returned in late February via Premier Cricket, where he took a hat-trick with the first three balls of his comeback match.
But his aim of playing in the final two Marsh Sheffield Shield games of the season was scuppered, first by a gastro bug that landed him in hospital and then by the suspension of the season due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Even if a maiden international campaign doesn't materialise in September, Meredith has plenty to look forward to.
Having impressed enough at the start of last season (he dismissed Steve Smith twice and David Warner once in the space of four days) to earn an Australia A call-up to play Pakistan, Meredith is preparing to bowl alongside former Test quicks Peter Siddle and Jackson Bird as part of an enviable array of fast-bowling talent at the Tigers this summer.
And most of all, he's looking forward to doing what he does best – bowl fast.
"I've been working up to the long run in training," he said. "Hopefully next week, I can let a few go and we'll be away."
Batsmen, you've been warned.