Tasmanian paceman Nathan Ellis has forced his way to the front of Australia’s reserve bowling queue with another impressive performance in the first T20 against England on Sunday evening.
In a high-scoring affair at Perth Stadium, Ellis conceded just 20 runs from his four overs as England clinched an eight-run victory in the series opener.
The 28-year-old was the only bowler from either side to leak less than eight runs per over, snaring three top-order wickets — including England captain Jos Buttler.
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Ellis, a travelling reserve during last year’s T20 World Cup triumph in the United Arab Emirates, is a crafty short-format seamer with subtle variations and an excellent slower ball, making him an effective weapon at the death.
England mustered just one run from their penultimate over, delivered by Ellis, with the right-armer sprinting back to his mark between deliveries to avoid the dreaded over-rate penalty.
He may not boast the height and speed of some of his bowling counterparts, but what Ellis lacks in muscle he makes up for with relentless precision and skill.
“Nathan Ellis was outstanding on a really good batting surface … he was unbelievable,” Australian captain Aaron Finch told Fox Cricket in the post-match presentation.
“He’s a fantastic bowler. He’s done it at domestic level, he’s done it every chance he’s had with Australia. He’s been so close a lot of times.
“The fact he keeps fronting up, he’s been 12th man on a lot of tours, the fact that every time he gets an opportunity (he takes it).
“He trains the house down, he’s just a brilliant person to have around the team.”
Former Australian batter Travis Birt tweeted: “Nathan Ellis offers a skill set different from the other Oz bowlers … So good. Has to play this format, every game.”
Most wickets taken in first five men’s T20Is for Australia
15 — Nathan Ellis
10 — Shaun Tait, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc
8 — Nathan Bracken, Riley Meredith, Mitchell Swepson
Since making his international debut last year, Ellis has taken 15 wickets in five T20 internationals at an economy rate of 6.40.
Only one cricketer in history has taken more scalps in their opening five matches in men’s T20Is — Sri Lankan spinner Ajantha Mendis.
He currently has the lowest T20I bowling average in history among Test-playing nations of those who have taken at least 15 wickets.
“He’s gone from strength to strength,” Australian teammate Marcus Stoinis told reporters in the post-match press conference.
“He’s going to play a lot of games for Australia I think.
“He’s a really smart T20 bowler, he’s got a few tricks.”
Ellis is the equal second-highest wicket-taker for the Hobart Hurricanes in Big Bash League history, claiming 43 scalps at 25.62 since making his debut in 2019.
He made his first appearance in Australian colours in August 2021, taking a hat-trick on international debut against Bangladesh in Mirpur.
Ellis was not named in Australia’s squad for the upcoming T20 World Cup on home soil, but has emerged as a leading candidate to slot into the side if injury intervenes.
The second T20 between Australia and England gets underway at Canberra’s Manuka Oval on Wednesday evening, with the first ball scheduled for 7.10pm AEDT.