Giant Queenslander Billy Stanlake ready to get Yorkshire blooming

By Luke Baker

HE’S almost seven feet tall, bowls at 93mph with more in the tank and Ricky Ponting believes he can become “one of the all-time great fast bowlers”.

Yorkshire’s newest T20 Blast signing Billy Stanlake certainly comes highly recommended.

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As for the man himself, he is just relishing being fully fit at last – unsurprisingly the Australian quick’s 6ft 8in frame has caused a succession of injury problems through the years.

Numerous stress fractures to his back, feet and pelvis before a toe infection that briefly led to talk of amputation means he hasn’t played red-ball cricket since December 2015.

But the 23-year-old has burst into the cricketing consciousness with the white ball over the past 12 months – taking 11 wickets at an economy rate of 6.47 runs per over in the Big Bash League and producing a blistering spell of 3-15 for Australia in a T20I victory against New Zealand earlier this month.

Those displays have led to the glowing comments from Ponting, who also hailed the Queens-lander’s swing and nasty streak.

And Stanlake claims the success that another injury-prone quick – Pat Cummins – has had after Australia started managing his workload is an inspiration.

“The Australian set-up has done a terrific job with Patty,” said Stanlake. “Where he’s been in the last 12-18 months, he’s played every format and played beautifully.

“Me and him have gone through pretty much identical injury pasts – to see him doing so well, especially in the red-ball format, gives me great confidence. It’s something to look at and aspire to.

“The body is feeling the best it’s ever been. I’ve had a good run with no major injuries for 18 months, just the toe infection at the start of the year, which was unlucky.

“I haven’t changed a lot in terms of preparation – it’s just my body maturing and getting older. I had to be patient but I feel like my body is catching up to my height, so hopefully I’ll now stay injury-free.”

If Stanlake can emulate the success of Cummins – England-destroyer-in-chief during this winter’s Ashes with his 23 wickets at 24.65 – then many a county player will find themselves outmatched this summer.

Stanlake could miss Yorkshire’s first couple of T20 Blast clashes if he is included in the Australia squad for their tour of Zimbabwe but will be available for at least 12 matches in the competition.

Mind your head: Billy Stanlake will board the plane to England for the Vitality Blast (photo: Getty Images)

And the tallest fast bowler to ever don the Baggy Green is already looking forward to his maiden trip to British shores.

“I’m really excited,” added Stanlake. “I’ve never been to the UK before, either on holiday or playing. It’s a great opportunity for me and hopefully I can learn a lot. A couple of the boys have mentioned that Yorkshire is a great spot with great lads and just a great club. They said I’ll love it – I’ve heard nothing but good things.

“I just wanted to keep playing cricket during the Australian winter – I haven’t played a lot of professional cricket, so the opportunity to play in England is going to be better for my career in general.”

The ongoing physical maturation of Stanlake seems almost unfair, further fortifying the already-enviable battery of Australian seamers.

And worryingly for batsmen all over the world, the Queensland native is adamant he hasn’t necessarily topped out at 93mph.

“I don’t want to put a ceiling on how far I can go or how quick I can bowl,” he said. “I’m only 23 and my body still has a lot of maturing to do and strength to gain. My height is always going to be an advantage because it’s different, batsmen don’t see it a lot. I don’t see why I can’t keep pushing boundaries.”

*This article originally featured in The Cricket Paper’s 2 March 2018 edition.

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