Ten players to watch in the Sheffield Shield
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With the cancellation of the South African Test tour, Australia’s next match is the first Test against England, hopefully at the Gabba, in November.
The Poms, meanwhile, had their stint in Sri Lanka, play India home and away, plus New Zealand for two Tests at home.
With those Tests versus our none, this is the most important back end of a Sheffield Shield season in a very long time.
Hundreds and draws bored the pants off viewers in the early part so we need juicy wickets, battles and tough cricket.
I’ve identified ten players to watch. They are players who need to get those extra performances together, and players who need to lift.
Marcus Harris (Victoria)In just three innings, Marcus Harris has 355 runs at 118.33 and has had an incredible 18 months in Shield cricket. His strike rate is at 49.1, which is no issue at all, but how many chances does he get?
He’s the third best opening bat in the country, but the struggle for Harris is the jump to international cricket hasn’t been what his fans were expecting.
An average of 23.8 isn’t good enough but if he keeps himself in good form in the Shield, he can still give himself the best chance to get back into contention.
(Photo: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
Nic Maddinson (Victoria)He has only batted three times for 88 runs but in his defence, his first two innings of 22 (off nine balls) and 27 (30) were both not-outs, due to Marcus Harris and Will Pucovski dominating. No one’s made more runs than him since his move from New South Wales to Victoria.
He got into the Test side in late 2016 against Pakistan and struggled, but the 29-year-old is clearly still in selectors’ minds, representing Australia A against India in the preceding games before the infamous Test series of the home summer.
Ben McDermott (Tasmania)For those who have only jumped on the McDermott train when he was smacking runs in the BBL as easily as a normal person washes dishes, shame on you.
He’s the equal fifth highest run score in the Shield at 59.16 but what’s impressive is his strike rate is low (42.36), which means he’s batting for time and he’s one of three players to hit double digits in sixes. That is depth.
Mitchell Starc (New South Wales)He has copped a fair whack and rightly so after the last three Tests against India. He copped a fair whack for looking lacklustre at times and non-threatening.
(Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)
At his best, he’s so deadly, so damaging and at all times you’re in big trouble. But in the India series at times he looked like a leaky tap. Balls were going everywhere and the ones that were straight weren’t coming out as quickly. He needs his confidence back as soon as possible, even with the bat as well.
Jhye Richardson (Western Australia)At worst, the Western Australian is the fourth best quick bowler in the country, hands down. He took six wickets at 20.5 in his two Tests against Sri Lanka but injuries have held him back.
His BBL form was scintillating but the only takeaway from the tournament was that he was fit and looking strong. If he can get through the Sheffield Shield fit and firing, he needs to play in the first Ashes Test.
Mitchell Swepson (Queensland)Behind Nathan Lyon, he’s the best spinner in the country and started the first half of the Shield like a house on fire.
He has 23 wickets (an astounding eight more than anyone else) from 201.2 overs (35.2 more than anyone else). He took three five-wicket hauls (no one else has two) and can continue to put his case forward for a Test debut very nicely.
(Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)
Travis Head (South Australia)Unceremoniously dropped from the Test side, the South Australian captain needs to press his case to get back in. His average of 39.8 is solid but can improve in his 19 Tests.
This Shield season has been a good one for Head. He is third on the tally for runs (455 at 65) with two hundreds and a fifty already. He is also equal with Will Pucovski with 60 boundaries.
Mark Steketee (Queensland)The somewhat bonkers inclusion of Steketee to the Test squad to South Africa looks a fraction stranger when he’s only had seven wickets in 124 overs this season.
In 2018-19, he took the fifth equal highest wickets for the season with 42 wickets at 20.76. Will he be a potential bolter in the Ashes squad? Only he can control that.
Michael Neser (Queensland)For the first half of the Shield season, Neser was playing like Chris Woakes. He produced damaging swing bowling and lower-order striking.
He has taken 10-244 from 111.5 overs with the second best economy of all bowlers with double-digit wickets. His 121 from 168 against Tasmania also sent the selectors a message that he’s a man to be noticed.
Josh Inglis (Western Australia)He is a bit stiff to be seventh in the league for runs but third for your state. But that’s the case for Josh Inglis. Everyone jumping on the Josh Philippe train needs to know he’s not a Shield regular and not their keeper. Sam Whiteman is their keeper and Inglis can keep too.
He has scored 354 runs in five innings at 118. That is fantastic but he’s only faced 412 balls with a strike rate of 85.92.
He has scored two tons and a half century. He capped off a competition-leading 11 maximums. Could Inglis be the middle-order brute that the Aussies are looking for? Let’s find out.