By Matt Somerford | ecb.co.uk
There are not many England players who have ventured into the inhospitable surrounds of the WACA Ground and survived the ordeal.
The home of cricket in Western Australia has a fearsome reputation with its gnarled wicket, searing heat and the baying support of the territorial locals making it a bear pit for visiting players.
Indeed, many Australia players from the east coast are hardly spared leniency from one-eyed WACA Ground natives.
Aptly known as ‘The Furnace’ during the Big Bash League, it is a throwback venue unlike the fast-developing grounds around Australia.
Its low-fi facilities may have cost Perth a Test this winter, but its scarred demeanor suitably portrays a stage where reputations are earned the hard way.
Last winter Ben Stokes forged his status, and won over the locals, with a debut century on a gaping jig-saw of a wicket in the third Ashes Test.
Twelve months on and, almost unthinkably, the Perth crowd are again starting to warm to an Englishman – Michael Carberry.
The 34-year-old left-hander is the toast of the town after he smacked an unbeaten 77, from just 37 balls, to steer Perth Scorchers to the brink of a fourth-consecutive Big Bash finals series with an eight-wicket victory over the Brisbane Heat.
The defending champions have never missed the top four – they have in fact hosted all three finals – so there was understandably high expectation on Carberry when he arrived as one of their two overseas players.
Carberry’s early performances failed to live up to the home hope and, even when he hit a half-century in defeat to last season’s whipping boys Sydney Thunder, mutterings about the Scorchers’ new man were growing more audible.
Carberry silenced them with a display of power hitting that matched the quickest half-century by a Scorchers player.
The Hampshire top-order batsman cracked six sixes and four fours, in front of almost 20,000 fans, as he raced to his fifty in 24 balls.
His milestone arrived moments after he launched former England skipper Andrew Flintoff for back-to-back maximums, as the Scorchers won with 25 balls in hand.
Victory took Perth equal top of the Big Bash table and elevated Carberry, who spent 15 minutes after the match signing autographs with his pads still on, into fan favourite status.
“It is always nice to contribute,” Carberry told ecb.co.uk.
“I have felt as though a knock like that has been coming for a while and I just haven’t quite found my best touch early in the tournament.
“Hopefully this can kick-start things for me.
“It tends to be that way with me unfortunately. Life has it’s little ups and downs.
“I’ve always prided myself on my mental strength, which I showed today.”
Carberry suffered a scare before the game when he was hit by a ball in the nets, but recovered to deliver his devastating burst – the highlight a towering six into the famed ‘Fremantle Doctor’ off Daniel Vettori.
“It’s always nice to hit sixes. I haven’t hit many on the trip so far,” he said.
“Just as long as we got over the line I was happy.”
Carberry’s Perth fans were not the only ones to be suitably wowed, with Liverpool legends Didier Hamann, Robbie Fowler and Jason McAteer also in the crowd.
The trio were in Perth to meet Liverpool fans, although Carberry and former Germany international Hamann – who spoke to ecb.co.uk about England’s chances at the World Cup – are friends after teaming together on BBC quiz show ‘A Question of Sport’.
“Yeah he is a big cricket fan,” Carberry said.
“I did ‘A Question of Sport’ with him early last year. It will be good to catch up with him if he’s around later on.”
If Perth is starting to warm to Carberry he has already grown fond of the city after arriving in early December.
“I can’t speak highly enough of the staff here at the WACA,” said Carberry, who has been living in an apartment just a short stroll from The Furnace on the banks of the Swan River.
“They’ve looked after me. My mum came over on Christmas Eve and they’ve looked after her very well.
“They put me up in a nice place and everyone has been on hand to help if I’ve needed anything.”
Carberry’s Perth adventure could yet be to Hampshire’s gain too with the batsman admitting he would like to see one of the defending Big Bash champions players lining up at the Ageas Bowl next summer.
The Scorchers have earned their success on the back of young talent such as left-armer Jason Behrendorff, AJ Tye and Yorkshire-born wicketkeeper Sam Whiteman.
“It would be nice (for a Scorchers player to play at Hampshire). There is some really great talent here,” Carberry said.
“Behrendorff is a class act and you’ve got young AJ Tye coming through. There’s Marcus Harris at the top and I think Sammy Whiteman kept beautifully.
“There is a lot of good young players here so, yeah, it would be great for their experience to get over and play some county cricket if the opportunity arose.”
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