It is just over a week before the opening Ashes Test at the Gabba and are Australia’s selectors any closer to nailing down their XI to face England?
The selection panel was due to meet in Brisbane on Wednesday ahead of Friday’s squad announcement, as round three of the Sheffield Shield continued across the country.
Out-of-form Renshaw faces fire in the nets
There was more interest in what was happening off the field than on it at Allan Border Field in Brisbane on Wednesday.
Matthew Renshaw, a day after making just 1 in Queensland’s second innings against New South Wales, underwent a thorough examination in the nets, facing line and length as well as some chin music from Test quicks Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Jackson Bird.
Cricket Australia tweets: Solid defence! Matthew Renshaw having a hit against Josh Hazlewood and co…
Renshaw has scored 70 runs at 11.66 in three Sheffield Shield appearances this season and is under enormous pressure to keep his opener spot, with Cameron Bancroft and Marcus Harris breathing down his neck.
But Renshaw’s participation in the net session on Wednesday, with Australia coach Darren Lehmann watching on, led several observers to suggest this is a sign he will keep his place for the Gabba Test.
Bulls coach Wade Seccombe conceded it would be difficult for Renshaw to ignore the speculation about whether he would be dropped.
“It’s probably hard for him to stay away from it, it will be a testament to his character to how he responds to it,” Seccombe said.
“He is very positive around the dressing room.”
For the record, the Blues wrapped up victory a day early to beat the Bulls by six wickets, with Australia captain Steve Smith throwing his wicket away on 9 and opener David Warner making 37.
Peter Nevill, the tip of many to be named Australia’s wicketkeeper, did not get the chance to show his wares with the bat, a day after he was out for 17 in the Blues’ first dig.
Bancroft goes cheaply after double-ton heroics
Twenty-four hours after scoring an unbeaten double century Western Australia opener Bancroft returned to the crease at the WACA ground in Perth but was unable to make an impression against South Australia.
Bancroft was out for 17 as the Warriors looked to build an insurmountable total against the Redbacks, however it would be a stretch to suggest he did his chances of Test selection harm by failing in the home side’s second knock.
He is the highest run scorer in the Shield at this early stage of the season, with 442 runs at 110.50, so if Australia selectors choose to show faith in Renshaw at the top of the order Bancroft could still be used at six.
For the record, Shaun Marsh, opening the batting alongside Bancroft, put together an innings of 52 and Hilton Cartwright fell for 18 batting at number three.
Alex Carey goes defensive while batting against the Warriors in Perth. (AAP: Richard Wainwright)
Meanwhile, the question was posed yesterday whether batting performances will dictate who is named as Australia’s wicketkeeper and not glovework behind the stumps.
If the bat is mightier than the gloves in the eyes of the selectors then Alex Carey gave himself a hope of earning a Test call-up with a solid 46 not out on day three in Perth.
Carey was denied the chance to push for a half-century when he ran out of batting partners, as the Redbacks were dismissed for 363 in their first innings.
The 26-year-old is coming off a 2016-17 Shield campaign in which he posted 549 runs at 32.29 and set a record for most dismissals for a wicketkeeper in a season (59).
Doolan asks Aussies selectors: remember me?
It has been three years since Alex Doolan graced the Test stage but he gave Australian selectors a reminder of his worth with a magnificent double century for Tasmania on day three of its clash with Victoria at the MCG.
Doolan, who has four Tests under his belt, was unbeaten on 247 when the Tigers declared at 2-424 shortly after tea, a lead of 452 over the Bushrangers.
While Doolan occupied the crease on Wednesday, with valuable contributions from George Bailey (59) and Tim Paine (71 not out), Tigers teammate Matthew Wade was forced to watch from the pavilion, perhaps wondering if his chances of staying in the Test XI were slipping away.
Wade, slated to bat at five for the Tigers, needs time in the middle to find some form, having scored a paltry 38 runs at 7.60 from his five Shield innings.
But with his wicketkeeping spot under threat from the likes of Nevill, Bancroft and Carey, day three at the MCG proved to be a missed opportunity.
While Wade did not get his chance to bat, potential Australia number six Glenn Maxwell made a start for the Bushrangers to reach 20 not out before bad light stopped play, with another Test incumbent Peter Handscombe on 5.
Meanwhile, in Townsville…
A scare was sent through the England camp when wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow was forced from the field on day one of the tour match against the Cricket Australia XI in Townsville.
Bairstow wore a delivery from England all-rounder Chris Woakes and received treatment, but he returned to the playing field with team officials explaining he had sustained a bruised middle finger on his left hand instead of a dislocation.
Woakes proved to be star performer for England on the opening day in Townsville with the figures of 6-54, while Craig Overton claimed 2-32 and Stuart Broad took 1-33 to leave the CA XI 9-249 at stumps.
Queensland v NSW
Victoria v Tasmania
Western Australia v South Australia
Cricket Australia XI v England
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