The new generation has arrived for Footscray in the Victorian Premier Cricket.
The Bulldogs blasted 6-400 declared against Geelong on day one at the Geelong Cricket Ground on Saturday and it was largely due to little-known young openers Ashley Armstrong and Nathan Caulfield.
Armstrong and Caulfield have only combined for 10 first XI matches between them – eight to Armstrong and just two to Caulfield – but their inexperience was no hindrance as they piled on 135 runs for the first wicket to get the Bulldogs on their way to their biggest total of the summer so far.
Caulfield (62) was the first to be dismissed for a maiden half century, but Armstrong batted until he could bat no more, holding firm until stumps to make a remarkable 181 not out off 267 balls.
It was an incredible feat for Armstrong, who made his first XI debut in 2014-15 and had only been drip fed seven top-level games since.
On a day when he blasted 20 fours, Armstrong was the leading run maker in the whole of Premier Cricket.
Bulldogs coach Stan Nell was thrilled.
“I said to him after the day, I’ve seen all the hard work that he’s done with his batting over the last two years and that’s a just reward that he’s kept at it, kept the faith and kept working,” Nell said.
“He’s now got a big score next to his name and not only a big score, he’s got a not out and batted the whole day.”
Most impressive was the control Armstrong had over his own destiny.
At no point did his concentration wane, nor did he offer too many chances for the Geelong fielders.
“I don’t think at any time during the day did he look in trouble or he looked to be tiring,” Nell said. “He was right on his game from the first ball he faced right up until the end.”
Caulfield is a teenager in a hurry.
He started his first XI career with valuable knocks of 30 in a one-day game and 62 in his first opening experience.
“I had my eye on him last year and I thought he was a player who had a bit of ability and could play,” Nell said. “I like what he does when he bats, he trains really hard and has got a good head on his shoulders.
“He’s a great young kid that we’ve given an opportunity to and it’s great that he’s grabbed it.
“He’s got quite a big future with us.”
Armstrong featured in seven different partnerships for Footscray.
The keys to the big total were his combinations with captain Dylan Kight (57) for a 123-run third wicket stand and another youngster Jordan Kight (44) for a 72-run fifth wicket partnership.
If you had’ve said before the day that Footscray would make 400 and star batsman Dean Russ would only make 10 of them, you would have been laughed at.
However, this Bulldogs side is full of young talent that might just be ready to emerge.
“I was sitting there with Dean Russ on the sidelines and I asked him ‘how long has it been since you’ve had tea and hadn’t had a bat?’ and he said ‘quite some time’,” Nell said.
“We’ve got quite a good crop of young players coming through too.
“We’ve got a whole group of 17 to 21 year olds in the ones, twos and threes that are the future of the club and they’re all going well.”
Geelong was 0-13 in reply at stumps.
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