Cameron White dominates the WA bowling on Friday. Photo: Getty Images
Maligned to mighty, ridiculed to respected, hopeless to Herculean. Any and all of those describe Cameron White's start to the season.
Having established his resurgent batting prowess in the past month, White drew on other strings to his bow to force Western Australia to scrounge a draw in its opening Sheffield Shield match against Victoria at the MCG.
The Warriors, fuelled by former Test batsman Marcus North's stoic unbeaten century over seven hours, began the last session coasting at 2-165. Though victory was never a possibility - they were chasing a record visitor's target of 381 - a loss looked similarly unlikely given their eight-wicket buffer. White's intervention changed that significantly.
That the 30-year-old's four Test appearances were primarily as a bowler has been increasingly derided in the five years, partly because he lost so much confidence in his leg-spin he often declined to bowl himself in teams he captained.
It was his leg-spin rather than teammate Fawad Ahmed's that, in the first hour of the last session, accounted for four Warriors batsmen. They included recent Australia under-19 captain Will Bosisto, who had shared a 124-run partnership with North in compiling 44.
When stand-in captain Shaun Marsh followed for four, with Sam Whiteman and Hilton Cartwright each falling for a duck, the visitors had crashed from 2-187 to 6-208.
The most dazzling of White's contributions to the match came in the field. Ashton Agar's full-blooded drive off Peter Siddle from the second new ball was destined for the boundary until the tall White hurled himself left to claim the catch, which assistant coach Simon Helmot insisted was bound for vacant third-slip, at full stretch in his left hand.
Western Australia's requirement to bat for another 14 overs was made easier by tailender Nate Rimmington surviving for 41 minutes, but still when he departed the Warriors had to withstand another 22 deliveries. North faced 12 of them and deservingly survived them all.
Helmot said White's all-round performance was a reward for his hard work in training and his stunning start to the season should put him in Ashes contention. ''If you've got a player who is one of the best bats in the country, can bowl some overs for you and is one of the best catchers in the country, he becomes a valuable commodity,'' he said.
White considered North's 118 not out ''as good an innings I've seen from anyone in a long time in first-class cricket''.
The left-hander was dropped for the last four games of last season and forced to open for the first time in more than 12 years. Having played better in the first innings than his score of 45 suggested, he showed such aplomb in his 423 minutes at the crease no one would begrudge him surviving two confident leg-before appeals, on 51 and 56.
His pride at his 314-ball innings was palpable, because he contemplated retirement last season.
''I had a great couple of years playing in the Australian Test team, and when I got dropped from the Test team things didn't work out as I'd planned for the next couple of years,'' North said.
''You look at your age, form and my whole career, you do well to play for your state and individually, but mainly to play for Australia. And it got to the stage last year when I thought that goal couldn't be further away and you start questioning things. But today I stand in front of you happy that I fought through some of those days and doubts.''