Matthew Wade, Glenn Maxwell fail but Cameron Bancroft delivers Ashes message
National selector Mark Waugh will arrive in Melbourne for day two of the Sheffield Shield clash but the scorecard may be all he and his panel need to see after Matthew Wade and Glenn Maxwell failed to deliver the knockout innings each needed to push for Ashes selection.
On a wild opening day of play between Victoria and Tasmania at the MCG, wicketkeeper Wade made only five off 42 balls before he was bowled, having attempted to pull a fullish delivery from around the wicket by paceman Peter Siddle. The Tigers were demolished for 172 off 64 overs, with leg-spinner Fawad Ahmed claiming 4-68.
In response Maxwell, stepping out for the Bushrangers at No.3, could muster only four off nine balls before he poked at a delivery from paceman Gabe Bell outside off stump and was caught by Wade. He had survived a confident lbw appeal from Bell on two.
Maxwell's failure came on a day when Western Australian Hilton Cartwright, also jockeying for the No.6 spot for next week's Brisbane opener against England, made a handy 35 against South Australia at the WACA. There had already been speculation he had nudged ahead of Maxwell.
Having tinkered with his technique in a bid to prosper in local conditions, Maxwell had made 151 runs at 37.75 with two half-centuries heading into this latest clash. Waugh, in Sydney on Monday, would have been keen for Maxwell to bat deep into day two but the opportunity went begging.
Maxwell and Cartwright, the latter with a pair against a Test-quality NSW attack last week, played in Australia's last Test, in Bangladesh, and had been seen as the two leading candidates for the middle-order role but Cameron Bancroft stormed into contention on Monday with a century.
Shaun Marsh, another hopeful, fell for 17 to paceman Joe Mennie. Marsh's form to this point had been strong but his standing among selectors had dipped after he was overlooked for a Cricket Australia contract.
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A week after his unbeaten 76 and 86 against NSW, Bancroft, as an opener, again impressed. He is regarded as a versatile batsman, who could replace the struggling Matt Renshaw as an opener or fill the No.6 spot. He was also praised by Waugh for his work behind the stumps in what was only his second first-class match as a 'keeper.
Wade was given the ideal opportunity to supply what has been an elusive big score to ensure he remained firmly in the Ashes race but he again failed.
While the national selectors were already increasingly likely to recall Peter Nevill as gloveman when the Test squad is announced on Friday, Wade still had an opportunity to show why he should be firmly in the frame.
He has begun the domestic season poorly, falling for one and six against Western Australia and nine and 17 against Queensland. That would not have mattered much had his international form since his return to the Test side in Adelaide last summer been strong. However, that was far from the case. He has averaged 20 since, and passed 50 only once in 16 innings.
That he was dropped for a one-day international in India last month showed the selectors were losing patience.
While Wade struggled, former Test batsman George Bailey, who memorably took to England paceman James Anderson at the WACA four years ago, effortlessly posted his first century of the campaign. Bailey, 35, has played only five Tests – all in the 2013-14 whitewash of England. Bailey has an unconventional technique – he has adopted a closed off stance where his front foot is closer to the off side than his back foot – but it remains more than effective.
Victorian captain and Australian No.5 Peter Handscomb fell for a duck when he attempted to defend a delivery from Bell and was caught at second slip off a thick edge. The Bushrangers will resume day two on 4-103.
Test opener Matthew Renshaw squandered an opportunity to post a big score, falling for 16 in Queensland's clash against New South Wales at Brisbane's Allan Border Field.
Renshaw was ruled to have been caught behind off seamer Trent Copeland but stood his ground, suggesting he felt the ball had tickled his back pad.
His latest failure leaves him with returns of 17, 16, one, 19 and 16 this summer but his spot in Brisbane has all but been guaranteed by Waugh.
Usman Khawaja has had a frustrating year on the sub-continent but will regain the No.3 spot after a strong start to the summer. That continued with an unbeaten half-century against the Blues.
NSW had rested Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc for the Queensland clash but Copeland and veteran Doug Bollinger were more than a handful in breezy conditions at the suburban ground.
The Australian pace pair trained in the nets right next to the field but Test spinner Nathan Lyon was in action, as were all of the top-line batters. Nevill took a pair of sharp catches and some welcome runs over the next few days would go a long way towards cementing his return to the baggy green.
– with Phil Lutton
Scattered Ashes: A day when several Test stars and hopefuls struggled
Matthew Wade 5 off 42 balls
Never really got going and was bowled having attempted to pull a fullish delivery from Peter Siddle
Matthew Renshaw 16 off 38 balls
Was less than impressed to be given out caught behind to seamer Trent Copeland, believing the delivery had come off his back pad
Shaun Marsh 17 off 24
Fell to a poor shot off a back-of-a-length delivery from Joe Mennie
Glenn Maxwell 4 off 9
Survived a lbw shout on two before poking at a delivery outside off stump
Hilton Cartwright 35 off 76 balls
Launched at a fullish delivery and was bowled by paceman Chadd Sayers
Peter Handscomb 0 off 5 balls
A thick edge off a defensive push to paceman Gabe Bell by the Victorian captain was caught at second slip
Usman Khawaja 78 not out off 192 balls
An unbeaten 78 from the Test No.3 featured eight boundaries and a six