Australian blind cricket team opener Steffan Nero broke a long-standing world record with an astonishing 309 in 140 unbeaten streak in the International Cricket Inclusion Series.
Wicket batsman’s triple century broke the previous mark of 262 not outs set by Pakistan’s Masood Jan at the 1998 Blind Cricket World Cup.
“It’s a dream to play for Australia, so doing a century for Australia is one of those memories you’ll never forget,” said Nero after completing his third straight century at the tournament in Brisbane.
Knocks of 113 (out of 46) and 101 not out (47) followed, and it leaves him with an unbelievable average of 523. It also included the top six of the tournament, a magnificent reverse sweep over the ropes at Shaw Park.
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“Sometimes on an over I decide, ‘OK, I’m going to try to take this guy downtown and hit him out of the park,’” Nero said. “This ball hit the right spot. One of my strengths is the reverse. I’ve built this up over the years, playing this reverse scan all the time.
“When it crossed the threshold to six, I was very happy about it. But I was also upset that I hit the ball in the air, because when you’re up against the best nations in the world, they’re probably going to get you.”
Needless to say, after Nero’s innings took his team to a total of 541-2 in 40 overs, Australia won the match by a whopping 269 runs. The host nation leads the series against New Zealand 6-0, with two more ODIs to be played before the series ends on Friday.
The tournament in Brisbane is the first time since 2019 that all three Australian teams – blind, deaf and intellectually disabled – have competed at an international level. Due to the Covid-19 disruption, Nero has not represented Australia since 2018 at the ODI World Cup in Dubai.
“It’s been a long time,” he said. “But no matter who we are playing with, we always like to give 100% and show the Australian spirit. All we really want to do is play cricket.”
Nero said the secret to his success was hard work and dedication. “It’s a lot of nights, weekends, along with university and work, it can be a lot of time,” he said. “But also the support around me. There were days when I didn’t want to train, but [coach Jason Stubbs] said ‘go on’ and pushed me away.”
Blind cricket is very similar to the conventional form of the game, with a few key differences – the ball is plastic and makes noise when it moves, and the stumps are made of metal to generate more noise when trapped by the ball. Bowling is underarm and the ball must bounce at least twice before hitting the batter.
ODI matches are 40 overs, which affects not only the physical but also the mental of visually impaired players, Nero said.
“I imagine it’s quite a mental effort to focus for anyone with full vision for that length of time,” he said. “But with poor eyesight, we have to expend a lot more energy to concentrate, especially if the ball is moving and the glare is very difficult.”
However, after his impressive innings, Nero continued to hold the wicket and promptly completed five runs.
“It’s been a whirlwind, but a fantastic experience,” he said.