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YOU wouldn’t know it given the composure in which he played with, but Liam Bowe was so nervous as he bowled his first delivery for the Melbourne Stars on Tuesday night that he couldn’t feel the ball come out of his hand.
In front of just over 40,000 fans at the MCG, including a large contingent of family and friends and members of the Sandhurst Cricket Club, Bowe took the biggest step so far in his burgeoning cricket career when he debuted for the Stars in the Big Bash League against the Adelaide Strikers.
The 19-year-old left-arm leg-spinner from Sandhurst was on the big stage, earning a call-up from the Stars’ supplementary list after Glenn Maxwell’s selection in the Australian one-day squad.
It was the biggest stage a Bendigo cricketer had been on since Kangaroo Flat’s Tim Welsford’s debut for Victoria in a 50-over game in November of 2014.
Six overs into the Strikers’ innings, Bowe got his chance, brought into the attack by Stars’ skipper David Hussey with Adelaide cruising along at 1-51.
On strike to “The Wizard” was Adelaide’s Tim Ludeman, who swept Bowe’s first delivery to short fine leg for a single.
“With that first ball, I was just trying to land it in the right area and not do too much with it,” Bowe told the Bendigo Advertiser on Wednesday.
“With all my nerves, I never felt it come out of my hand, but it landed alright and it got a bit easier from then.
“Towards the end of the first over it definitely started to feel a lot better after there was a bit of pressure with the first few balls going for a few.
“But when I got the wicket it was definitely a relief.”
And that wicket was the scalp of Strikers’ opener Ben Dunk, who had loomed as a major threat for the Stars when he had moved to 35 off 24 balls.
However, a mis-timed shot off the final ball of Bowe’s first over landed in the hands of a stretching Hussey at deep cover and Bowe had his first wicket, with the loudest noise coming from 45 of Bowe’s family and friends, plus 25 from the Sandhurst Cricket Club.
“I couldn’t believe it when the catch was taken… I was extremely happy and relieved to get the first wicket out of the way,” Bowe said.
“It was an awesome feeling and nice to get Dunk at that time of the game.”
Bowe sent down three overs and finished with very tidy figures of 1-21 in a debut performance that drew plenty of praise on not only social media when he was one stage trending No.1 nationally on Twitter, but also from commentators Adam Gilchrist, Ricky Ponting and Damien Fleming.
"What I like in that first (over), even though they were going after him, he landed the ball really well," Fleming said.
"There was no full-tosses or half-trackers, he was very consistent in his length.
"It's a great start for the youngster."
The Stars’ biggest name, Kevin Pietersen, who was the first to congratulate Bowe after his wicket, said he was “mightily impressed” by the chinaman bowler, who has this season made the move to play Premier Cricket with Essendon.
Bowe – who is about to start a Bio Medicine course at Deakin University Burwood – was hit for only one boundary, by Ludeman, in his three overs, while his spell featured 14 balls where just one was scored.
While there were plenty of nerves before bowling his first ball, they were amplified later in the night when Bowe was forced to put the pads on and contemplate that he would be required to bat at No.11.
The TV coverage showed regular shots of a nervous Bowe – who has a BDCA first XI batting average of 8.3 – in the dug-out late in the match when the Stars were eight wickets down and still three runs from victory with one over to go.
“That was definitely the most nervous part about the whole game,” Bowe said.
“I was just praying that I wouldn’t have to go out there.”
And to his relief he wasn’t required as man-of-the-match Ben Hilfenhaus and Michael Beer guided the Stars over the line with three balls to spare.
“I couldn’t stop fidgeting and moving through those last few overs, so it was a big relief when they got through for that last single,” Bowe said.
“Overall, the whole night was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.”
And so to was it for the Bowe family.
“It was a fantastic night… there was a group of 45 of us that was mainly family with a few friends not far behind the Stars’ dug-out,” Liam’s father, Kevin, said.
“There was also a group from Sandhurst and others from Bendigo cricket dotted around the MCG and we were just so proud of how he went about the whole day.
“To see him run onto the MCG, Julie (step mum) had a tear in her eye and everyone was really excited. We couldn’t be more prouder of the way he handled himself during and after the game.
“The moment he took the wicket, it’s fair to say there were 45 of us who erupted and went a bit nuts.
“The three overs he bowled, on debut I don’t think he could have done much better and the opportunities the Stars have given him have been fantastic and so far, he has stepped up.”
Also a proud on-looker at the MCG was Sandhurst captain-coach Craig Howard – a mentor of Bowe’s for the previous three years.
“I wasn’t going to watch the first three balls because I thought that’s where he might struggle, but right from ball one he nailed it,” Howard said.
“He’s the prototype of a spinner that you want in that he skids it at the stumps and has a wrong’un that people find hard to hit. I’ve got no doubt he will have a long and successful career with the short-form, and with the way he’s going in two-dayers with Essendon, I reckon an opportunity will be just around the corner with the longer form as well.”
As for the large turn-out of support, Bowe couldn’t have been more grateful
“It was awesome seeing everyone after the game and even out in the field I could see a few mates in the crowd, so that made it a bit easier,” Bowe said.
“I’m very thankful that everyone came down.”