Australian blind cricket team starter Steffan Nero has broken a long-standing world record with an astonishing 309 unbeaten run from 140 balls in the Cricket International Inclusion Series.
The wicketkeeper-batsman triple century broke the previous benchmark of 262 not eliminated, set by Pakistan’s Masood Jan at the 1998 Blind Cricket World Cup.
“Playing for Australia is a dream in itself, so making a century for Australia is one of those memories you’ll never forget,” said Nero after making his third straight century at the Brisbane tournament.
Hits of 113 (from 46 balls) and 101 not out (47) followed, leaving him with a barely believable average of 523. He also included the first six of the tournament, a magnificent reverse sweep over the ropes at Shaw Park.
Related: Glenn Maxwell leads Australia’s biggest chase against Sri Lanka to win the first ODI
“Sometimes in an envelope, I’m like, ‘Okay, I’m going to try to get this guy downtown and knock him out of the park,’” Nero said. “This ball hit the right spot. One of my strengths is the opposite. I’ve developed it over the years, playing that reverse sweep all the time.
“When he passed the limit of six I was very happy with it. But it also bothered me to hit the ball in the air, because when you face the best nations in the world, you will most likely get caught.
Needless to say, after Nero’s innings propelled his team to a total of 541-2 in 40 overs, Australia won the match with a mammoth 269 runs. The host nation leads the series against New Zealand 6-0, with two more ODIs to play before the series concludes on Friday.
The tournament in Brisbane is the first time since 2019 that all three Australian teams (blind, deaf and intellectually disabled) have competed internationally. 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’re playing against, we always like to give 100% and show the Australian spirit. All we really want to do is play cricket.”
Nero said that the secret to his success was a lot of hard work and dedication. “It’s a lot of evenings, weekends, along with college and work, it can be a lot at once,” he said. “But also the support around me. There have been days when I didn’t want to train but [coach Jason Stubbs] He said ‘go ahead’ and pushed me.
Blind cricket is much like the conventional form of the game, with a few key differences: the ball is plastic and makes a noise when it moves, and the stumps are made of metal to make more noise when the ball hits them. Bowling is underarm and the ball must bounce at least twice before reaching the batsman.
ODI matches are 40 overs, which not only takes a physical but also a mental toll on visually impaired players, Nero said.
“I imagine it’s a huge mental strain to concentrate for anyone with full vision during that period of time,” he said. “But with visual impairment we have to expend a lot more energy to focus, especially if the ball is moving and the glare is really difficult.”
However, after his impressive innings, Nero kept the wicket and quickly completed five runs.
“It’s been a whirlwind but a fantastic experience,” he said.