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Josh Inglis glimpses higher honours as prolific season builds belief

Josh Inglis reached his maiden first-class century Getty Images

Ricky Ponting needed just one over of watching Josh Inglis face Rashid Khan to be convinced of his talent and his credentials as a potential international cricketer.

Inglis himself has always known he had the talent to match it with the best but only now, after six years in the system, on the cusp of his 26th birthday, does he finally feel at home in first-class cricket.

"To be honest, I feel in my first-class career it's only this year that I feel like I'm really, really established," Inglis told ESPNcricinfo. "It might not look like that from the outside but that's how it's felt for me."

That reassurance came during the first half of the Sheffield Shield season in Adelaide. Inglis had played 34 first-class matches over five years prior to the start of this season. While his glovework was always highly-rated, his batting record didn't match the talent. He made just nine half-centuries without reaching three figures and averaged 28.15.

The numbers didn't stack up given he had progressed to first-class level through plundering runs in Perth grade cricket. He made 1137 of them in a single season as a 21-year-old with four centuries including a mammoth 246 in the final to deliver his club side Joondalup a premiership.

But those performances hadn't translated until he finally broke through scoring his first Shield century against South Australia. He backed it up with an excellent 51 in tricky conditions against Tasmania having entered at 5 for 64 on the opening day. He then added a blistering 125 against Victoria, at better than a run-a-ball featuring six sixes. His season tally stands at 354 runs at an average of 118.His Shield season will resume on Thursday against South Australia in Perth.

"Just getting those big scores is what you're expected to do as a batter and I haven't done that," Inglis said. "I've played well for a couple of years and I've been in the team for most of that time but until you're putting those big scores on the board you're not really doing your job and cementing your spot. To have this year is huge."

Inglis puts his graduation from a talented youngster to an established first-class professional down to a couple of factors. Firstly, his selection for Australia A last summer against England Lions was a major boost for his confidence.

With Alex Carey away with Australia's ODI team, Inglis was anointed as the next best wicketkeeper-batsman option in Australia and more than held his own as Australia A were thumped in a four-day day-night pink-ball match at the MCG.

"Firstly, it was just nice to get recognised at that level and to get picked in the first place and then I think I got a couple of 40s [40 and 35], but played reasonably well on a tough wicket with a pink ball," he said.

"It just gave me a bit more confidence knowing that I can do it, another step closer to international cricket I suppose. I wouldn't have worried too much if I missed out because that can happen in cricket sometimes. But just to get picked in that game was nice in itself."

Secondly, he made a concerted effort to hone his training methods. Inglis has been in WA's pathway system since he was 15 having moved permanently from the UK where he was born and raised just a year earlier.

He has had the benefit of a wealth of elite coaching. Former WA batsman and long-time WACA development coach Wayne Andrews had been a key batting mentor for Inglis for many years, as he was for so many of WA's current and former players. Inglis also had access to Justin Langer and Geoff Marsh during his early days as a contracted player.

But this season, one-time Test spinner and former WA and NSW allrounder Beau Casson, now WA and Perth Scorchers batting coach, has helped take Inglis' game to another level.

"I worked with Beau Casson a lot at the start of this pre-season," Inglis said. "We had a chat about just batting for longer and doing it for longer. It's just really about nailing my routines down and doing it over and over again. I feel like the first half of this season I did it really well and just kept it really simple.

"I think it's just being more precise in your training and more precise in my routines and just being relentless with it. I've always felt that I've had the ability and I've always backed my own game but it's not always just about talent. I feel like that side of my game, I've taken it to another level this year and hopefully, it can continue."

He has been equally meticulous with his keeping coach Damon Rowan, to who he gives great credit for his technical knowledge and friendship over his entire first-class career to-date.

Inglis' name did not appear among the 37 Australia players selected for the simultaneous tours to South Africa and New Zealand. Given the sheer number of players named, non-selection might have been seen as a negative, but Inglis knows he's closer to international ranks than he appears having spoken directly with the selectors after an excellent BBL season that yielded 413 runs at a strike-rate of 140 in a difficult middle-order role.

A role that Ponting, among others, was critical of him being forced into by coach Adam Voges due to the Scorchers overseas top-order recruits, but one that he is well-suited to and thrived in, having had vast experience of at club level.

"I was on standby for the T20 squad to go away," Inglis said. "I think if there was an injury or if someone pulled out for whatever reason I might have gone but they were pretty happy with my performances in the BBL and they just said keep banging the door down and keep scoring runs. I think the message is pretty clear and I'm pretty happy with that."

There is no question about his desire to play for Australia, despite spending the first 14 years of his life in England.

"Obviously, I was born there and didn't move to Australia until I was 14," he said. "But this is my home now and I want to spend the rest of my life here and hopefully play for Australia one day and keep working up the ranks. That's definitely the goal."