THEY call him “Big Billy” – and for obvious reasons.
At 204 cms, or 6ft 7ins in old money, Billy Stanlake, whom Yorkshire will today announce as their second overseas player for the Vitality Blast, is the tallest man to have played for Australia.
Stanlake, 23, has joined New Zealand captain Kane Williamson on the Yorkshire staff for the 20-over tournament starting in July.
He will be available for at least 12 of the club’s 14 group games – there is a possibility that he could miss the first two if chosen for an Australia tour to Zimbabwe – before returning home for the Australian pre-season.
Stanlake, who yesterday took 1-37 from four overs to help Australia to victory over Williamson’s New Zealand in the final of the Trans-Tasman T20 Tri-Series, from which England were eliminated, bowls right-handed and bats left.
He has played only a handful of professional fixtures – 25 T20s (including six internationals), six List A games (including two ODIs) and two first-class matches – but he bowls at 90mph-plus and has been on Yorkshire director of cricket Martyn Moxon’s one-to-watch list for some time, having caught his eye while playing for Jason Gillespie’s Adelaide Strikers in the Big Bash League.
“We’re delighted to have Billy on board,” said Moxon. “He’s someone I noticed when I went out to see Dizzy (Gillespie) in the Big Bash. The pace and bounce he gets really stood out for me, and he’s a genuine wicket-taker which is just as important as keeping the runs down in one-day cricket.
“He’s something different for us, and particularly with David Willey and Liam Plunkett not available for the first period of T20, assuming they’re playing for England, he’s a nice fit.”
Stanlake’s capture is clear evidence of Yorkshire’s ambition to land a clean sweep of trophies.
Williamson is another big coup and a batsman available for the final 11 of Yorkshire’s T20 group games, plus four matches in the County Championship.
Yorkshire’s other overseas recruit, India batsman Cheteshwar Pujara, is available for up to nine Championship games and for seven of Yorkshire’s eight group matches in the Royal London Cup.
To have such powerful and comprehensive overseas coverage provides genuine hope of an assault on the treble.
“My fingers and toes are crossed that nothing spoils the recruitment we’ve done this winter,” said Moxon, mindful that an injury here or a hastily-arranged series there can spoil the best-laid plans of mice and men.
“But we certainly look in a good place at the moment.”
He’s something different for us, and particularly with David Willey and Liam Plunkett not available for the first period of T20, assuming they’re playing for England, he’s a nice fit.Martyn Moxon on Billy Stanlake
Stanlake’s signing suggests as much, with the player delighted to have secured the deal.
“I’m really excited about heading over to England and representing Yorkshire Vikings in the domestic T20 competition,” he said. “It’ll be a great experience and hopefully an exciting few weeks.
“It’s a huge club with great history and tradition, and I’ve only heard positive things from the guys who have been there in the past. The club have some really experienced pros on their books, who I’ll be looking to learn from, but it will also be interesting to see how some of the club’s talented youngsters go about their business too.”
Stanlake added that his body “feels in a good place”, reassuring words given that he has suffered several injuries.
His prodigious height might have contributed to a catalogue of ailments that have included stress fractures of the back, pelvis and feet, plus a toe infection that almost required an amputation. But he has recently enjoyed a run of matches, capped by some impressive returns in the Trans-Tasman series. Stanlake took 3-15 against New Zealand in Sydney and 2-28 against England in Melbourne.