When Jason Sangha calls for "Wizard" to bowl the sixth over of the innings, England only need a further 99 runs to eliminate Australia from the Under-19 World Cup. The match is being watched by a handful of spectators in Queenstown, and a few thousand on television across the Tasman - word of the Australians being bowled out for 127 cannot have encouraged too many to tune in.
Lloyd Pope, though, is watchable whatever the score. There's the flowing red hair, the plentiful confidence, and the legspin repertoire that has befuddled countless batsmen in Australian junior ranks - all of which helped earn the "Wizard" nickname. Pope's is a combination of legbreaks, googlies and skidders he has honed since taking up wristspin while "mucking around" with his dad in Cairns as an eight-year old, two years before the family moved to Adelaide and he took up with Kensington.
The Browns are one of the most storied clubs in Adelaide grade cricket, the home patch of Don Bradman and also Clarrie Grimmett, Australia's relentlessly wily legspinner of the 1920s and '30s. Grimmett's arm was lower than Pope's, but he would have appreciated the way the 18-year-old took control of the situation upon being called upon by Sangha. If days where he has needed to produce something special for the strong Kensington side have been few and far between, Pope has become used to doing so for South Australia's Under-17 and 19 teams; what's known colloquially as "pulling his team out of the s***".
In that first over to Liam Banks and Tom Banton, Pope is looking for the ideal pace at which to operate, the speed at which the ball would spin and bounce best. "A little bit of trying to rush the batsmen, trying to get them to play different shots and things," he said later. "I feel if you're bowling the same pace of the same ball in one-day cricket, you get a little bit predictable and then you can start going for runs from there, so yeah I was changing things up."
In keeping with his role as England's aggressor, Banton reverse-sweeps his first ball from Pope to the backward-point boundary, but his second is slower, higher and spinning past the bat from a line just outside off stump. It is this delivery Pope returns to in his second over, the scoreboard reading 47 for 0, to tease the quieter Banks forward. Mistiming his first ball, beaten by his second, then trying to drive the third, Banks is beaten by spin, and drags his back foot just enough for Baxter Holt to complete a quicksilver stumping.
England's captain Harry Brook walked to the middle without having been dismissed in the tournament. In that time, he'd tallied 173 runs at a strike rate better than 122, including a commanding century to overwhelm Bangladesh's bevy of spin bowlers. But Pope had a plan in mind, linked to the fifth stump line he had used against Banks and Banton. They had driven at legbreaks, drawn wider, and when Pope tossed up his first delivery to Brook, the batsman saw another such teaser. Stretching out to drive, he was short of the pitch, and English horror matched Australian delight as the wrong'un snapped back into middle stump. Pope's celebrations, exhorting his team-mates to fight, had a bit of the Shane Warne 1999 World Cup semi-finals about it.
"It was nice the plan paid off," Pope said. "It came out my hand pretty nicely. I watched it go down the other end, it was a good feeling to see a plan work out. Everyone has been supportive of my wrong'un. I've always played cricket for fun. In the nets experimenting with different things has been enjoyable to me. As long as it's working in games I'll keep using my variations in different ways with different balls. It is a challenge, particularly in the longer form cricket, to get the ratio right and work out different batsmen as such. In white-ball cricket I can afford to bowl a few more variations."
Fun was not on Will Jacks' mind as he joined the rest in having enormous trouble picking Pope out of the hand. After evading the hat-trick ball, he jammed down on another wrong'un just in time to avoid being bowled. In Pope's next over, though, he was deceived as much by bounce as turn and edged off the back foot to a juggling Sangha, who as captain has imbued his spin bowler with plenty of confidence. "It gives me confidence my captain is looking for me to advance the game, put me in early and have the faith in me to land a ball straight away and take some wickets," Pope said. "I love those scenarios."
Banton still loomed as England's best hope, and in Pope's fourth over he clobbered a rare brace of loose deliveries with pull shots to and over the midwicket boundary. When the first ball of Pope's next over disappeared through cover, the target had slipped below 60. But Banton was caught up in his own momentum, having struck 14 off three deliveries, and when he tried another reverse-sweep to a Pope delivery that bounced, he managed only to glove it. The deflection struck Holt before rebounding in the general vicinity of Sangha, who dived for a magnificent catch. Pope and Australia were now all over England, without an established batsman at the crease. Back home, more and more followers looked for television screens, where previously they'd been content to follow the scores.
While the scores suggested England still had the advantage, the faces on the field told otherwise. Pope's fifth wicket, Finlay Trenouth flailing at a wider legbreak and being beautifully held by Sangha above his head, was greeted less with Australian glee than expectation. Pope had changed the mood of the game, and the rest of the team now prowled the field like winners. "All the boys, as soon as we took a couple of wickets, were really up and about, really supportive, and everyone was up as a team," Pope said. "Every single person there wanted it 110% and that feeling maybe affected the English a little bit, I don't know if it affected them too much, but it was really good to get the win and we always had that belief, even when they were 0 for 47."
Pope's belief allows him to convince Sangha that he should stay on when play resumes after the lunch interval, despite the presence of two left-handers at the crease. Param Uppal does his job at the other end, bowling his offbreaks tightly from around the wicket and coaxing Euan Wood into dragging a fretful cut onto the stumps, before England's panic is summed up by Tom Scriven's scramble to get off strike first ball, and compounded by Jonathan Merlo's throw to knock out a stump and effect the run-out.
England have lost 3 for 3 and Australia now have victory firmly in view, but Pope still wants to prove a point about the left-handers. Switching to around the wicket to dart his wrong'uns away, he finds another with prancing bounce to catch a thin edge from the bat of Luke Hollman. The wicketkeeper Jack Davies offers some semblance of resistance, but cannot keep Pope away from the tail - a flatter, sliding delivery pins Ethan Bamber in front of leg stump, then three balls later Dillon Pennington reads the wrong'un no better than the rest, chopping onto the stumps to commence Australian celebrations. Pope has 8 for 35; England have lost 10 for 49 while he's been bowling.
Through it all, Pope makes himself a compelling sight, dominating the screen, the batsmen and the moment. This may, of course, be a shooting-star performance. Not much about Pope's Under-19 World Cup so far had suggested he was about to do what he did on Tuesday. Against a rampant India he was spared the worst punishment, bowling only three overs while Austin Waugh faced far more aggression. By his own admission, Pope is far from the finished article: "I've always had high expectations for myself, I try to take wickets and focus on those areas of my game, but I've definitely still got work to do on my fielding, and my batting as well has got to improve."
But on this day in southern New Zealand he produced the sleight-of-hand magic that only the best legspinners bring to the game at international level - in other words, wizardry. Australia will hope that Queenstown Hill is far from the summit of Pope's ambition.