Matthew Renshaw’s long-awaited return to Test cricket hasn’t gone exactly to plan. Perpetual rain, positive Covid-19 tests and broken umbrellas probably wasn’t what he envisioned for his first match back in the Test side.
The 26-year-old has already experienced the fluctuating highs and lows of professional cricket. He was initially rushed into the Test side as a 20-year-old batting prodigy, making his international debut against South Africa in December 2016.
Later that summer, Renshaw scored his maiden Test century against Pakistan at the SCG, smacking 184 in the 2017 New Year’s Test.
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“It was a pretty special day for me, I still like watching it. It’s a great memory for me,” Renshaw told Fox Cricket on Saturday morning.
“That was probably when I was at the best form of my life, at the time … but I feel like my game’s expanded so much more since then.”
The left-hander was unceremoniously dropped later that year following a disappointing tour of Bangladesh. He was axed from the Queensland side two years later, prompting him to step away from the sport altogether and focus on his mental health.
“Covid came at a decent time for me,” Renshaw explained.
“I had just taken a break from cricket, had to really work out what I wanted to do with my life.
“I wanted to try and prove myself and prove that I could get back there.”
Since returning to state cricket, Renshaw has been one of Queensland’s leading run-scorers in the Sheffield Shield. He had scored 310 runs at 51.66 this summer, including an unbeaten double century against New South Wales in October.
Renshaw pummelled 81 and 101 not out against the West Indies during last month’s Prime Minister’s XI match in Canberra, and Cameron Green’s finger injury opened the door for a Test recall.
On the morning of day one of the New Year’s Test against South Africa, Renshaw requested a hay fever tablet to treat his runny nose and sore throat.
“Normally anywhere below the Queensland border I get hay fever,” Renshaw explained.
“Doc said do a Covid test for me. As soon as that line came up, I grabbed my bags.
“Didn’t really know what the go was. Fortunately I was allowed to play.”
Renshaw was forced to isolate in his own change room, locked away from teammates and support staff for the first three days of the Test.
“It was a weird two days before you bat, to not spend time with anyone, sit on your own in your own dressing room. It was an interesting story I’ll be able to tell the grandkids,” he laughed.
“When I first got in there, I just dumped everything. I was pretty low at the point, thought I wouldn’t be able to do anything.
“A couple of crosswords, and a couple of sudokus, a lot of game of patience.
“I’m not great by myself at the best of times, and then when you add the nerves of a Test match in that room, it was quite tough.”
On day two of the SCG Test, while waiting to bat near the Australian dugout on the SCG boundary, Renshaw shielded himself from the sun with an umbrella, and in a moment that quickly circulated social media, the heavy winds inverted and broke his umbrella, prompting jeers from the Sydney spectators.
“It felt proper village,” Renshaw said.
“It felt like I was playing subbies down the local, got me back to my roots a little bit.
“The umbrella was a terrible situation. Fortunately the drinks boys moved down a bit so I could get under that shade.”
Renshaw finally got his chance on Thursday evening, walking out to bat alongside mentor and Queensland teammate Usman Khawaja. His first delivery, facing Proteas quick Kagiso Rabada, was clipped through fine leg for a boundary.
“Got a decent cheer when I walked out there, and just tried to enjoy it,” Renshaw said.
“You don’t know when your last Test match is. It’s been five and a half years since my last one, so I just try to enjoy the moment.”
Renshaw was on 5 when rain forced a premature end to day two, with Khawaja unbeaten at the other end on 195. The entirety of day three was a washout, and the start of day four was postponed due to weather.
“Hopefully I can be out there with him when he gets that 200,” Renshaw said.
“He went past my highest score in Test cricket (on Thursday), and pointed at me and gave me a thumbs up. It’s always nice to see he’s thinking about me when batting.”