The first two Sheffield Shield rounds have thrown up some mixed results for Australia’s Test incumbents and contenders. Australia’s T20I squad will now join up for the six matches against Sri Lanka and Pakistan while the rest of the contenders look to make a final impression on the selectors. There is also an Australia A tour match in Perth against Pakistan prior to the first Test. Here’s how the key players have fared so far.
Who’s going well
Mitchell Starc probably made the biggest statement this week. On a Drummoyne Oval surface that is typically batsmen-friendly he tore through Tasmania, taking 10 for 60 in 44.2 overs across the match. He bowled with serious pace after making some minor technical adjustments with New South Wales bowling coach Andre Adams and looks to be coming together nicely for Brisbane. The other quick who has put himself back in the mix is Jhye Richardson. He has bowled superbly for Western Australia taking nine wickets in three innings at an economy rate of under two. He is bowling as quickly, if not quicker than prior to his shoulder injury. On a batting front no one is hammering the door down. Shaun Marsh‘s double hundred will inevitably spark the almost annual debate over his career while Tom Cooper and Nic Maddinson also cashed in with doubles on the flat Junction Oval pitch but are some way from the Test mix. Marnus Labuschagne has scores of 69, 52, 32 and 72 not out which on the surface doesn’t jump off the page, but given the difficulty of the batting conditions at the Gabba they have been impressive returns.
Who’s doing enough
David Warner will be in Brisbane after an outstanding century on a difficult surface against Queensland at the Gabba. There will be dissenting voices claiming he has two other low scores but that is part and parcel of opening the batting in Shield cricket in October. Marcus Harris could claim to have done enough to retain his place with a hundred and a half century in three innings. The century will have an asterisk next to it, however, given it came at the Junction Oval where 12 wickets fell in four days. He was also dropped twice in the innings. Of the genuine contenders, Will Pucovski is doing enough to keep his name in the mix. Like Harris he has a century and a half century to his name on the same pitches. He has four Shield hundreds now in 13 matches at an average of 54.45. There will be a lot of public support for his inclusion. Tim Paine’s spot was never in jeopardy but he quietened any murmurs with his first Shield century in 13 years, on the same day Alex Carey produced a century in Melbourne. James Pattinson‘s figures don’t leap out but he bowled some outstanding spells against South Australia and Western Australia without much luck. He deserves to be in contention to play in Brisbane. Michael Neser was part of the Ashes squad and has done his chances to debut in Australia no harm with 10 wickets in four innings, including 5 for 56 against South Australia. He’s doing enough to stay in the frame although conditions in Brisbane have certainly favoured the bowlers.
Who needs to do more
You could mount an argument Matthew Wade has done enough to be picked for Brisbane. Scores of 40, 20, and 40 suggest he’s still playing well but he knows there are no guarantees, despite two Ashes centuries. Usman Khawaja is under pressure. Scores of 1, 24, 2, and 0 have done nothing to push his case for a recall, although his failures in the last match against South Australia need deeper scrutiny from the selectors as he appeared to be the victim of not one but two questionable umpiring decisions. He has also batted in the toughest conditions in Australia, although Labuschagne’s success makes those mitigating circumstances harder to argue for. Travis Head made a painstaking and unconvincing 51 against Victoria but butchered a golden chance to make a monstrous century as Cooper did on a road at the Junction Oval. He followed that with a 25-ball duck and 12 against Queensland, falling to two loose shots. Cameron Bancroft‘s form has dropped off quite significantly since his impressive performance in the Southampton practice match prior to the Ashes. He has scores of 30, 0, 10 and 6 not out so far this season and isn’t in the Test frame at this stage. Joe Burns was a man to watch but he probably hasn’t done enough to dispel whatever doubts that continue to surround him as a Test player, despite batting on some tough tracks. He has reached 20 in three of his four innings at the Gabba but his highest score is only 52. Peter Siddle, who played in Australia’s last Test, has been injured but did not set the world alight in his first game back against Western Australia.