There is an unavoidable, Ashes-sized blob which has emerged ominously from just over the cricketing horizon, with just the small damp mound that is New Zealand to overcome before it is upon us. Not in my lifetime has there been so many positions in the Australian line-up seemingly up for grabs, with so many left-field options who wouldn’t have had a hope in hell of touring in previous years somehow in the frame. Of the Australian batting line-up, only captain Michael Clarke can be guaranteed to play every game in both series, with the rest of the side just a couple of poor shots from being replaced.
Thankfully for the no doubt under-funded ECB coaching staff, there is one blogger who is keeping a firm eye on Australia’s top domestic competition ‘The Sheffield Shield’ to see who could be staking a claim for a place in next summer’s touring party. Quite how an eye can be ‘firm’ is another tale for another day, but here follows the official scouting report:
The highest run scorers see some familiar faces and more I’ve never heard of. Of those actually likely to feature is Phillip Joel Hughes – likely to figure especially if Ed Cowan continues to scratch around for not very many in India. If Hughes does figure then he will comfortable surpass David ‘Cow-Corner’ Warner as the least technically sound opening bat in world cricket, his bat swinging ungainly-ly through the meat aisle as James Anderson helps himself at the self-service. Hughes has slapped his way to 2 hundreds, 3 fifties and an average of 56 so far this winter – he’s not been in this good form with the willow since the last time he flopped in international cricket, and has been picked to bat at 3 for the series in India. Wrong’un odds of being selected – 1/2
After Daffodil Phil comes a more weathered and seasoned performer: Former captain, former juggernaut and perennial pantomime profligate Ricky Ponting is quite frankly storming the batting charts with a barnstorming average of 111 and a match-winning double century in his last game. Whilst Tricky Ricky has officially retired from international cricket, it seems just too much of a coincidence that he is set to be have a two month stint for Surrey at the time when Australia just happen to be touring and at the minute he is a well-oiled run machine. An onset of late July ‘flu’ affects the Australian batting line-up, conveniently just after Ricky biffs a ton for Surrey, England win the First Test and the selectors panic…stranger things have happened! – Wrong’un odds on being selected: 3/1
There are only three other players with over 500 runs to their name in this Shield season, two of whom also might just push a late, desperate claim by accumulating lots of runs in England and seeing their compatriots crumble. Long-term Derbyshire stalwart Chris Rogers has three centuries to his name for Victoria and 597 runs at an average of 55 to bolster his chance for a second cap, but at 35 would have to be a very short term, reactive move to add more experience to the side. Mark Cosgrove, he of formidable waist, edges into that category with 502 runs having played the most innings to date. Although just 28, his face and his size just hasn’t seemed to fit ever since he picked up a few ODI caps as an emerging prospect. It would take a drastic upsurge in form for both Tasmania and Glamorgan to be seriously considered. – Wrong’un odds of either man being selected: 15/1
The last name to have reached 500 runs is Tasmanian right-hand bat Alex Doolan. At 27 he has edged his way to 39 and 31 for Australia A (aka ‘Ozstraya Eh’) in their two recent matches against the England Lions (roar). He will rue not pushing on to bigger scores to get in the minds of the selectors, although a current season average of 48 with a century and three fifties isn’t to be sniffed at. Unlike the previous three mentioned he has the advantage of currently being somewhere in the Australian set-up, but he’ll certainly need a lot more runs in this season to be seriously considered to tour. – Wrong’Un odds of being selected – 25/1
It is also interesting to note that Brad Haddin is on decent form. With Matthew Wade unconvincing and yet to be cemented into the side, Haddin has picked a good time to hit some form, with two hundreds, two fifties and an average of 53 to date. He is a proven, decent performer at Test level and it would be a surprise if Wade can avoid a dip in form somewhere along the two series. – Wrong’un odds on being selected – Evens