Ask any international cricket captain about what his ideal start in an ODI game would be and you’ll hear all sorts of numbers flying around: none for 75 off 15, 1 for 80 off 15, none for 100 off 10 (for the really ambitious skipper).
On Sunday, Cricket Australia revealed their team of the tournament for the Sheffield Shield season, which reaches its climax with the final, between Queensland and Tasmania, commencing on Friday.
Virtually half this side picked itself, given eight players from this XI will take part in the final. It’s really no coincidence that these teams – particularly Queensland – have been so dominant in the long form in the last few months.
The XI announced reads as follows:
Joe Burns (Queensland), Matthew Renshaw (Queensland), Glenn Maxwell (Victoria), Marnus Labuschagne (Queensland), Callum Ferguson (South Australia), Jake Doran (Tasmania), Matthew Wade (Tasmania), Michael Neser (Queensland), Tom Rogers (Tasmania), Chris Tremain (Victoria), Jackson Bird (Tasmania).
Hard to go past the right-hander, despite missing a chunk of cricket after Christmas, before returning with a classy 97 last week.
A deserved selection given this season has seen him clock up 635 runs from just six appearances, at an average just below 60. Burns’ injury could not have come at a worse time, given auditions were largely open to replace under-fire batsman Cameron Bancroft in the Test side.
Not as straightforward a selection as his opening partner, yet Renshaw’s mass run-scoring in the new year secured his place. He was averaging below 20 after the opening four rounds, but sits eighth on the run-scoring list for this season, with three centuries igniting his run of excellent form.
Both Jake Weatherald and Marcus Harris, having scored 765 and 706 runs respectively, may well feel a little aggrieved at this choice, however.
In this game, numbers mean just about everything, and Maxwell proved his long-form prowess this season, delivering a stern message to national selectors after his Ashes snubbing.
Compiling 707 at a whirlwind strike rate of 70, his season will be remembered for that monstrous innings of 278 early on.
You might say this was an automatic selection.
A big improver this season and a wonderful middle-order rock for the Bulls, the South-African born batsman finished third on the run-scoring leaderboard – a seriously impressive feat.
Difficult to question this pick; the only one who might’ve staked as much of a claim being Travis Head, with similar numbers to boast. Labuschagne’s consistency likely won him the nod.
Who knows if his brief life as a Test cricketer will ever recommence, but the veteran is going the right way about it. Ferguson rather inconspicuously tops the tournament run-scoring and may only be surpassed following the final. His 780 runs – including a damaging 182 and five half-centuries – illustrate that class is permanent.
The gap between his best and worst performances were obvious, with several fails and single-figure scores, but including the leading run-scorer in this team is really a no-brainer.
Some might’ve labelled him as a talented youngster who has underachieved prior to this season, but they won’t anymore. Arguably the most noticeable improver of the season, Doran greatly improved on two lean years prior, accumulating 722 runs at 45.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of his batting is his patience and ability to bat for long periods. He faced more deliveries this season than anybody else, and by some stretch too – nearly 300 more than the next. His watchful approach might be exactly what Test selectors are looking for sometime down the track.
He might be a long way from ever recovering his Test place, but Wade’s selection was all but certain here, following a solid competition where his 546 runs was far superior to that of any other keeper.
Most would agree his work behind the stumps was largely unobtrusive too – and that can only be a good thing.
Neser has become a household name among domestic cricket circles following some brilliant performances for the Strikers in the BBL and Queensland in the longer form. Displaying wonderfully skilled swing bowling, he has taken 37 wickets from nine matches, with a fantastic average of 19.7, in what has been his standout Shield season to date.
A valuable lower-order hand too, his season with the bat included his fifth first-class fifty. Not going to argue with this selection at all.
The 24-year-old fast bowler had an outstanding season, grabbing 35 wickets. Rogers had not played a first-class match until last October, and he has given Tasmanian cricket much to like about their fast bowling.
Rogers became part of a brilliant pace attack this season, and his average of 17.31 is the best of the frontline bowlers to have played more than five matches. His devastating performance of 4-9 against an inexperienced WA side was a sign of things to come.
Perhaps the only other name in contention for his place would be Scott Boland, who finished second on the overall wicket tally, however the rapid rise of Rogers caught the eye of most viewers.
The Victorian quick has strung together several outstanding seasons now. This time, Tremain finished with a staggering 51 wickets, 13 ahead of Boland.
Similar to Ferguson, when a player tops the charts so comfortably, it would almost be criminal to leave them out. Tremain is ready for Test cricket should the opportunity present anytime soon.
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Bird was the premier quick in the competition before his Test duties, but he still managed to take 35 wickets, despite playing just seven matches.
Teammate Sam Rainbird would have been a fair choice in this XI, having also taken 35 wickets, however those came in ten matches. Like Tremain, Bird has been a model of consistency in the Sheffield Shield for several seasons – this one was no different.
In a season dominated by fast bowling, interestingly no spinner was included in this XI. While it would have been extremely difficult to include one given the spread of quality pacemen, the most likely candidates would have been Mitch Swepson (32 wickets from ten matches) and Fawad Ahmed (27 wickets from seven matches).
It is worth noting too that newly included left-arm quick Nick Winter collected 34 wickets for South Australia from just five matches – an extraordinary achievement. This contained more five-wicket hauls than any other, and gave fans a taste of what he might produce in a full Shield season in the future.
Did Cricket Australia get the makeup of this team right? Were there any other unlucky names? Interested to hear your thoughts Roarers!