Home » ‘I’ve always wanted to play in it’: Scott Boland relishing championship stint

‘I’ve always wanted to play in it’: Scott Boland relishing championship stint

There has been a bit of chuntering about the early deployment of the Kookaburra in the County Championship but, given his expertise with Australian cricket’s ball of choice, expect none to come from the latest Test-class fast bowler to grace the competition. After the 24-hour schlepp from Melbourne to the north-east last week, and a four-hour coach journey down the M1 to Birmingham on Thursday, Scott Boland is set to make his debut for Durham against Warwickshire in the second round that starts on Friday– surprisingly his first county stint, despite appearing utterly built for it.

Ever since he filleted England with figures of six for seven on a spicy MCG pitch two years ago – a dream-like debut in the Boxing Day Test at his home ground that sealed the 2021-22 Ashes for Australia – counties have been seeking Boland’s signature with a view to what chaos his relentless, muscular seam-up may wreak in the four-day game.

Durham, dreaming big this year after an impressive promotion in 2023, are about to find out, their director of cricket, Marcus North, having swooped to secure the services of a right-armer with 380 first-class wickets at an average of 24. It follows a southern summer when Boland was frozen out of Australia’s Test attack by Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood remarkably playing every match.

“I’ve always wanted to play in the County Championship,” says Boland as Durham’s team bus snaked its way down to the Midlands from Chester-le-Street. “But I bowl a lot of overs for Victoria and so previously I’ve used the off-season for a break.

“Last summer, my domestic workload was managed [by Cricket Australia] as the coaches didn’t think those three [Cummins, Hazlewood and Starc] would get through all seven Tests. It just shows how good they are that they did. But I feel lucky to be in the same squad as them and, in terms of this county season, I feel as fresh as ever.”

A key player when Australia won the World Test Championship final at the Oval last year – his removal of Virat Kohli and Ravindra Jadeja in the space of three balls proving pivotal in the fourth innings – Boland met his first bump in the international road when England’s Bazballers targeted him to the tune of 4.9 runs an over in the two Ashes Tests he played.

Scott Boland enjoyed a dream debut against England in the 2021 Boxing Day Test. Photograph: Daniel Pockett/Cricket Australia/Getty Images

At a time when they could look to replenish their stocks Australia have kept faith, however, renewing the 35-year-old’s central contract and now keeping a close eye on this county stint. Boland, less a late bloomer and perhaps more someone who took time to get noticed, is buoyed up by this and is openly targeting the 2025-26 Ashes

“It is a long way off but I feel I’m bowling as well as ever,” he says. “The amount of resources teams have these days, sport science, there is nothing to say you’re done at 33. We have Peter Siddle at Victoria bowling as well as ever at 39. If you put the hard work in, look after your body, you can go as long as you want.”

Despite a late arrival in the UK, Boland did not miss much after Durham’s opener against Hampshire was ruined by a waterlogged outfield. Instead, he trained his way out of jetlag, crossing paths with Ben Stokes at the Riverside as the England captain builds up his own bowling with a view to the Tests against West Indies that start in July.

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But Boland’s reunion with the Dukes ball has been delayed, this second round another using the Kookaburra ball that is, in part, supposed to familiarise England’s seamers with it before that next bid to regain the urn. Among them are two of his county colleagues in Matthew Potts and Brydon Carse, both centrally contracted and in the mix this summer.

“I’m looking forward to bowling with a couple of guys on the cusp of playing for England,” he says. “If they want to chat about bowling I’m an open book. I have bowled my whole career with the Kookaburra and any questions about that, or anything, I’ll answer. There’s so much footage of players these days, everyone knows what everyone is doing – there’s no more secrets.”

For so long one of Australia’s best kept secrets, it may be that Boland’s time in England benefits both sides of the Ashes divide.