Ollie Pope has just announced himself as one of Test cricket’s hottest prospects but the England batsman is already dreaming of crossing over into the one-day side.
Pope has been earmarked as a future star for some time and matched words with deeds over the past six weeks in South Africa, hitting a brilliant maiden century and averaging 88.66 across five innings.
Having missed the first Test defeat through illness, Pope scored important runs in each of the tourists’ hat-trick of wins in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Johannesburg and now looks set fair for a long and successful career at the highest level.
The 22-year-old will be heading home before the limited-overs leg of the tour and has not yet found his way into a side who won last summer’s 50-over World Cup and are now targeting the 20-over trophy later this year.
Given his evident class and his wide range of strokes, it cannot be too long before the selectors cave in, though.
“My dream is to play all three formats for England,” he said.
“I see myself as a white-ball player as well but our team is pretty established at the moment. They’ve got a great batting line-up and a great middle order so if I want to get in that one-day side I’ve got to bide my time, score my runs in county cricket and hopefully keep scoring some Test runs. Then it will look after itself.”
Pope’s ability to improvise and his wide repertoire of shots, which he reeled through in in pursuit of quick runs after reaching his hundred at Port Elizabeth, has not gone unnoticed.
As a young player he is eager to pick up tips from captain Joe Root, but the relationship is already working both ways.
“It’s quite funny, because Rooty has been one of my favourite players growing up over the last 10 years – watching him play has been awesome,” Pope said.
“Then the other day he hit a shot – one of those ramps – and said ‘I learned that one of you!’. That’s a big compliment from one of my favourite players growing up.
“But I learn a lot off him too and that’s just the way batting works. You’re always learning from Rooty and Ben Stokes: they set a benchmark from a batting point of view. They’re always looking ahead, always thinking about that next series coming up and how they can prepare themselves best for that. That’s definitely what I’ll be learning to do from now on as well.”
The mutual appreciation is also in evidence with Stokes, who revealed media comparisons between Pope and Ian Bell are shared among his team-mates.
And, as Bell is a five-time Ashes winner with 26 international hundreds, it is a considerable accolade.
“Ollie is already getting likened to Ian Bell by the press and, to be honest, he is in the changing room as well,” Stokes said.
“He showed everything during that hundred in PE, how to build an innings and then when he batted with the tail the white-ball shots came out. And they weren’t just against anybody, they were against Kagiso Rabada, the second best bowler in the world, who bowls fast.
“It’s the modern way, every 22-year-old is playing shots like that but to come and do it on the biggest stage in Test cricket, against one of the best bowlers in the world, I think shows how good a player he is.”
England’s Stuart Broad became the latest player to be sanctioned for loose language in the Test series, losing 15 per cent of his match fee and picking up a demerit point for swearing at Proteas skipper Faf Du Plessis while he batted at the Wanderers.
Du Plessis escaped charges for his subsequent bump of shoulders with Jos Buttler, with the officials satisfied that the contact was unintentional.
Buttler and Stokes have both earned similar raps to Broad for verbal outbursts, but Root is happy with how his side conduct themselves.
“There are times in the series where things might slightly boil over and guys get it wrong but I don’t think we’ve got a bad group of guys at all,” he said.
“We’ve got a huge amount of respect for the opposition and for people in the ground. There’s definitely no bad blood between these sides in my opinion.”
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