CRICKET: Flame-haired hero Lloyd Pope has the endorsement of spin king Shane Warne after an eight-wicket World Cup haul lifted the teenager in to the Australian cricket spotlight.
Pope, 18, tore England to shreds in a stunning quarter-final comeback in Queenstown at the under-19 World Cup on Tuesday, taking 8-35 in 57 balls to roll the opposition for just 96.
His effort was made even more special by the fact Australia was defending only 127, and England were cruising at 0-47 when Pope, from South Australia, got the call from captain Jason Sangha in just the seventh over.
Pope took the first five wickets of the innings in 32 balls to have England reeling. He then returned to clean up the tail with another three scalps in his final 15 balls to keep his country's World Cup ambitions alive.
Warne has seen Pope, who has a rookie contract with South Australia, close up after bowling with him in Adelaide. He was ultra-impressed then and beamed when told of the young leggie's eight wicket blitz.
"I had a bowl with him in Adelaide two years ago. He gives it a rip and looks a real talent," Warne said.
Pope, the only player to take the most wickets in both the national under 17 and under 19 carnivals, said he had never paid attention to comparisons, especially not with Warne.
But like Australia's greatest ever wicket taker, the youngster declared his love for getting the ball in the big moments and revelled in his chance to bowl his country to victory against the Old Enemy in a do-or-die game.
"I like putting myself in pressure scenarios, I feel like I bowl better under pressure," Pope said after his match-winning turn.
"To be able to do that for my country has been really good. And (Sangha) giving me the ball it gives me confidence that my captain is really looking to advance the game and has the faith in me to land the ball straight away and take some wickets.
"I love those scenarios … it's cricket, it's fun."
Pope fired up with every wicket and said he could feel the English batsmen wilting, which they so often did when Warne was going hard at them.
"It's just my normal demeanour … but it was a big stage, a quarter-final and it means everything to play for your country and to get in to a semi-final," he said.
"Every single person on our team wanted it so much, you could feel it, and you say it probably scared the English a little bit."
His immediate ambitions don't extend beyond the World Cup campaign but Pope knows he is a long way off the finished product he needs to be if he wants to follow in Warne's legendary footsteps.
"I tend to not think about the future too heavily, I like to stay in the moment and the World Cup is the main priority at the moment," Pope said.
"When I get back I would like to focus a bit more on red ball cricket. I've been playing a lot of white ball cricket, I want to go back to long-form cricket, bowling a lot of leg breaks, a lot of overs.
"I always have high expectations of myself, I always try and take wickets. But I've definitely still got work to do. My fielding and my batting have to improve.
"It's nice to get a reward, but I've got to drive to keep taking wickets in the World Cup and hopefully we can take the trophy home."
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