Sheffield Shield Round 2 and Australia “A”: players to watch

6 November 2013 represents the start of four first class games which represent the last chance for Australian cricketers to press their case for national honours with the first test match team for the Gabba test set to be named on 12 November. I have been overt in my view that the first test team has already been names internally at Cricket Australia Towers however an injury to Shane Watson and question marks over the captain’s fitness mean that this round of fixtures take on a, possible, new meaning. Also, given that CA has played its hand around fast bowler management in its decision to rest Josh Hazlewood from all cricket this week it is also important to keep an eye on the fast bowling stocks around the country.

All that said: here are my players to watch for this round of first class cricket:

Alex Doolan:

Seemingly already coronated as the replacement for Shane Watson, certainly so if you read the News Limited press, Doolan is off to a flying start to the season with a hundred and fifty in round 1 of the Sheffield Shield. This time last year scored a big hundred against South Africa in the same game and will again need big runs in this game to: a. mask his first class average of less than 40 and b. prove to everyone he is worthy of the “next best” slot.

Usman Khawaja:

Was in the test team in England and failed to grasp his opportunity with both hands. Now is seemingly on the outer (again principally with the News Limited press) and did not do anything to impress the selectors in round 1 of the Sheffield Shield. Is behind Doolan in the pecking order on form but has the advantage of test match experience which could be useful at the selection table. Needs to bat for a long time in this game but, in doing so, needs to show that when he plays spinners he can rotate the strike which he failed to do in England.

Phil Hughes:

Can Hughes make another push for the number 3 slot in the test team that many believe to be rightfully his? His attempt to do so commences in Perth where he will, one expects, open for the Sandgropers. Coming off a nothing tour of India he will need big runs in this game to get his name to the front of the queue. It must be noted that this is precisely the situation he found himself in last season when, via weight of first class runs, he charged into the test frame. The big question mark is whether one game is enough.

Moises Henriques:

Captaining the Australia A team is the first taste of first class cricket Henriques will have this season given that he has been mixing the cordials in India and missed the 1st round of the Sheffield Shield. A tour to India under his belt that can only be described as a disaster means he has test match experience and if he can perform against the English in Hobart he may be the man to replace Shane Watson if the NSP decide to replace an allrounder with another allrounder.

Ben Cutting:

The man of the series in the Ryobi Cup in the eyes of everyone but for Channel 9’s biased commentators, Cutting struggled with illness in the first round of the Sheffield Shield. Has match turning power with the willow and is one of the swiftest bowlers in domestic cricket on his day. Missed out on selection two years ago at the Gabba when the NSP went for hair gel (Pattinson) over substance. The only way he will get in the test team is if he takes that many wickets even John Inverarity can not ignore him and this game against the English is the first step on that path.

John Holland:

Holland is in the frame for a possible test birth for one reason and only one reason: Kevin Pietersen has a problem with left arm orthodox spin. Massive question mark for me is the fact that he has not played first class cricket in 13 months. Second question mark for me is a bowling average of 39.18 at the top level also does not inspire confidence. That said: if he gets KP out twice in the two innings he bowls at him in Hobart watch for the push for him to selected for the Gabba (again particularly in the News Limited press which has a problem with Nathan Lyon).

I am sure there are other players in the frame however these are the players I think the selectors will be looking at closely, whether they should be or not!

All eyes also will be on the MCG for the Victoria v New South Wales game and whether the captain’s rickety back can stand back to back first class games.

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