Agar heaped praise on the allrounder, who scored a career-best 185 not out against New South Wales (0:40)
The opening two rounds of the Sheffield Shield being played in an Adelaide hub are completed and they have produced some compelling cricket. Here’s a few things that have stood out and a quick look at what’s to come
The multi-skilled players have been making their mark everywhere you look in the opening two rounds. In the space of an hour in the first week Michael Neser and Ashton Agar completed the double of a century and a five-wicket haul which had not been achieved in the Shield for 10 years. The following week Sean Abbott scored an unbeaten half-century then collected 6 for 89 on a back-breaking surface for pace bowlers and in the same game Moises Henriques, who does not bowl as much as he once did, scored a faultless 167.
To take being an allrounder to an extra level, Beau Webster has scored runs, and bowled nagging medium-pace and offspin in the first two matches for Tasmania. To cap things off, the most talked-about young allrounder in Australian cricket, Cameron Green, made a superb 197 and is close to a return to the bowling crease. Such is his batting ability, it may not matter how much Green is able to bowl when it comes to the inevitable selection chatter. Watch this space.
Test batsmen find form
The Test matches against India are still the best part of two months away, but the form of some of the likely batting order will be encouraging for the selectors. Marnus Labuschagne showed his outstanding game sense when he battled through a tricky start (with the help of a bat change) to make a superb century against Tasmania. Travis Head has started the season strongly for South Australia, producing an excellent unbeaten 171 to secure a draw from a tough position against Tasmania which followed a half-century in the opening match.
As the opposing captain, Tim Paine will have rued the runs of Labuschagne and Head from Tasmania’s perspective but will hope it sets both up for big summers. And Paine himself notched up three figures – just the third century of his first-class career – with the Australia captain’s game looking in good order in front of and behind the stumps. Joe Burns and Matthew Wade (who has been rested from the first two rounds) will hope for similar results in the coming weeks.
The nature of the Adelaide pitches has meant a big role for spin in the opening matches. The first round of games included a telling performance from Mitchell Swepson, which helped Queensland to victory deep in the final session against Tasmania, while next door Agar wheeled away with good effect against the Redbacks. There was a promising start for Lloyd Pope with five wickets on the opening day of the season but it has been tough going since: 2 for 310 after the first day of the tournament. The two surfaces in the recent round of games offered less for the spinners with Nathan Lyon toiling through 47 overs against Western Australia and Tom Andrews going wicketless on his Tasmania debut.
A big save for South Australia?
South Australia have claimed the wooden spoon in the last three seasons and there is a big rebuilding job ahead for new coach Jason Gillespie. Quite how significant surviving the final day against Tasmania ends up proving to their season remains to be seen, but starting with two heavy defeats – as looked likely midway through the last afternoon – could have been potentially debilitating for their campaign even so early in the summer. Gillespie completed his quarantine in time to join the match from the second day and can now start to get properly involved with what looks like a long-term project to revive the states’ fortunes.
What’s to come in the next two rounds?
After the rejigging of the opening rounds due to Victoria’s quarantine issues, there are now set to be two full rounds of action as they get their season underway with matches against Tasmania and Queensland. It will the first chance to see how Victoria will cope with a bowling attack that is stripped of significant experience with Chris Tremain having gone to New South Wales and James Pattinson at the IPL. A number of their top order will be looking to make a case to the Australia selectors: Marcus Harris, Will Pucovski, Nic Maddinson and Peter Handscomb could all be a chance for reserve batting slots. Elsewhere there will be much interest in Green’s potential bowling comeback and whether Mitchell Marsh is able to get a game before the BBL following his injury at the IPL.
Source: ESPN Crickinfo