Ball-tampering sees Aussie outsiders rocket into Test contention

Ronan O'Connell Columnist

By Ronan O'Connell, Ronan O'Connell is a Roar Expert

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    Travis Head celebrates after scoring a century. (AAP Image/David Mariuz)

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    While the ball-tampering scandal left a dark stain on the Australian cricket team, it also created a rare opportunity for domestic batsmen to earn a crack at Test cricket.

    Whereas after Australia’s recent 4-0 Ashes win the top six looked set in stone – bar one opener’s berth – not a single member of their batting unit is now truly cemented in the line-up.

    Openers Matt Renshaw and Joe Burns, and number four Peter Handscomb have only just returned to the side, as replacements for the banned David Warner, Cameron Bancroft and Steve Smith. Veterans Usman Khawaja and Shaun Marsh, meanwhile, possess valuable experience but both had poor series in South Africa and own troubling records away from home.

    Australian batsman Usman Khawaja

    Usman Khawaja (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    And all-rounder Mitch Marsh is set to undergo ankle surgery which will reportedly rule him out of what is now being slated as Australia’s next Test series – a two-match contest in Pakistan in October.

    All of this means there are likely to be generous opportunities for batsmen to grab Test places over the course of the 12-month absences of the banned trio.

    Mitch Marsh’s Test understudy has appeared to be Marcus Stoinis, with the West Australian drafted into the Test squad in India 12 months ago when Marsh went down injured.

    But a horses-for-courses selection saw Marsh’s spot for the remaining two Tests in India instead go to spinning all-rounder Glenn Maxwell. The Victorian acquitted himself well across a run of four matches in India and Bangladesh, averaging 37 with the bat, before losing his spot to Marsh for the Ashes.

    His impressive display in Asia last year makes Maxwell the obvious replacement for the burly seam-bowling all-rounder in Pakistan. Stoinis’ Test chance could come next summer, when Australia host series against India and Sri Lanka.

    The Aussies like to play a pace all-rounder on their flat home pitches so if Marsh is not fit, that could create an opening for Stoinis, who is highly regarded by the national selectors despite poor Sheffield Shield performances of late.

    Stoinis’ main competition comes from his WA teammate Hilton Cartwright, who played one Test in Bangladesh last year after debuting at home against Pakistan in January 2017. Cartwright’s appeal dulled last summer, as he endured a disappointing Shield campaign, but he can push his Test case over the coming months during a stint with Middlesex in Division One of the English county cricket competition.

    That will be crucial experience for Cartwright, who has only played three first-class matches outside Australia – the Test in Bangladesh, plus single first-class matches in England and New Zealand.

    Hilton Cartwright of Australia bowls

    Hilton Cartwright (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)

    Also hoping to use this county season as a springboard is Travis Head. Like Cartwright, the South Australia captain lacks first-class experience outside Australia, having played just one match in England and one in India.

    While I still have misgivings about Head’s looseness outside off stump, he has now put together three good Shield seasons on the trot. In the first of those, he won the Sheffield Shield player of the year, and he has averaged 46 and 43 over the past two seasons.

    Head has long been earmarked as a future Test player so it will come as no surprise if he earns a baggy green this year. It would be a shock, however, if that debut were to come in Pakistan, given Head is far weaker against spin than pace.

    The ability to play spin bowling could work in the favour of ODI stalwart Aaron Finch. The 31-year-old Victorian is a greatly-improved first-class cricketer, having made 2365 runs at a shade under 50 in the past four years.

    Having captained Australia in limited overs cricket, Finch also offers impressive leadership skills, which could appeal to the selectors as they seek to rebuild the shattered Test team.

    Any or all of Finch, Head, Cartwright, Stoinis and Maxwell could vault into the Test XI as a result of the ball-tampering debacle.

    Ronan O
    Ronan O'Connell

    Ronan O'Connell has been a journalist for well over 13 years, including nine at daily newspapers in WA. He now traverses the world as a travel photojournalist, contributing words and photography to more than 30 magazines and newspapers including CNN, BBC, The Toronto Star, The Guardian, The South China Morning Post, The Irish Examiner and The Australian Financial Review. Check out his work and follow him on Twitter @ronanoco

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    The Crowd Says (44)

    • April 15th 2018 @ 10:50am
      Adam said | April 15th 2018 @ 10:50am | ! Report

      Maxwell and Finch in for both Marsh brothers and the batting will be way better.

      • Columnist

        April 15th 2018 @ 10:55pm
        Glenn Mitchell said | April 15th 2018 @ 10:55pm | ! Report

        Adam,

        Finch is 31and has a first-class average of 36 which hardly reassures anyone.

        He has actually found it difficult to be a first-pick batsman for Victoria in Shield ranks in recent years. While he has a good record in the limited forms of the game his red ball cricket has never greatly inspired confidence.

        This past summer, in eight Shield matches he scored 494 runs at 35.

        • April 16th 2018 @ 1:02am
          Adam said | April 16th 2018 @ 1:02am | ! Report

          Do you read he has been averaging 50 for 4 years dope.

          • Columnist

            April 16th 2018 @ 11:28am
            Glenn Mitchell said | April 16th 2018 @ 11:28am | ! Report

            Actually, across the past four Sheffield Shield seasons, Finch has scored a grand total of 1331 runs at an average of 41.6.

            That equates to an output, on average, of 333 runs each season.

            • April 16th 2018 @ 12:50pm
              Adam said | April 16th 2018 @ 12:50pm | ! Report

              No mate he has been averaging 49 for the last 4 years 50 in Australia and 47 in England.

              • Columnist

                April 16th 2018 @ 7:48pm
                Glenn Mitchell said | April 16th 2018 @ 7:48pm | ! Report

                Can you please supply the season by season first-class stats for him in Australia for the past four Shield seasons?

              • Columnist

                April 16th 2018 @ 8:03pm
                Glenn Mitchell said | April 16th 2018 @ 8:03pm | ! Report

                Adam, according to Cricinfo, his last four Sheffield Shield seasons have been:

                2017-18 494 runs at 35.3
                2016-17 581 runs at 52.3
                2015-16 203 runs at 33.8
                2014-15 53 runs at 53.0

                That equates to 1331 runs at 41.6 for the four seasons.

                What figures are you going off?

              • April 16th 2018 @ 9:46pm
                Adam said | April 16th 2018 @ 9:46pm | ! Report

                He scored 288 not out against New Zealand which was a first class match and there might have been more aus a match’s.And has averaged 47 in England for 4 years 2 years with Yorkshire and 2 years for Surrey.

            • April 16th 2018 @ 8:26pm
              John Erichsen said | April 16th 2018 @ 8:26pm | ! Report

              The total and average you state are correct, but what relevance is his average runs per season?In 2014/15 he only played 2 first class innings, scoring 53 runs with one not out. In 2015/16 he played only 6 innings. That contributes significantly to the less than impressive 333 runs per season you listed.
              If stating runs per season, you should be noting those details too, to provide a true context within the discussion.
              Apart from that, I agree with you that Finch in the first class format is anything but reassuring. There must be better options selectors can look at.

              • Columnist

                April 16th 2018 @ 8:34pm
                Glenn Mitchell said | April 16th 2018 @ 8:34pm | ! Report

                I did not raise the four seasons, Adam did. I merely pointed out first up that he did not have a highly successful 2017-18 Shield season and Adam raised his effort across the past four seasons to which I responded and he told me that the figure I supplied was not correct and he did not average 41.6 as Cricinfo states but 50.

                I think also I if you look at the runs scored each year and the average you can figure out pretty much how many innings he played each season.

    • April 15th 2018 @ 11:09am
      Paul said | April 15th 2018 @ 11:09am | ! Report

      I reckon there’s a great opportunity for some players out of left field to get a run. Ronan’s focused on the usual suspects but Weatherald, Lehmann, D’Arcy and others can put themselves into the mix if they have a sensational start to the Shield season.

      • April 15th 2018 @ 11:13am
        Adam said | April 15th 2018 @ 11:13am | ! Report

        Short lol your dreaming he shouldn’t be any were near the odi side and watch him have a failure of an IPL.

        • April 15th 2018 @ 4:48pm
          KenoathCarnt said | April 15th 2018 @ 4:48pm | ! Report

          2 run outs is hardly a failure its not like he was clean bowled

          • April 15th 2018 @ 5:00pm
            Adam said | April 15th 2018 @ 5:00pm | ! Report

            Doesn’t matter he averages 5 now in 2 go’s and I don’t see him being able to average 25 + which is a failure.

            • April 15th 2018 @ 6:56pm
              KenoathCarnt said | April 15th 2018 @ 6:56pm | ! Report

              LOL im glad your not a selector writting a player off after just 2 innings that were both runouts due to inexperience with a new batting partner absolutely nothing to due with his technical application.

      • Columnist

        April 15th 2018 @ 5:21pm
        Ronan O'Connell said | April 15th 2018 @ 5:21pm | ! Report

        Lehmann had a shocking Shield season – averaged just 28 overall and only averaged about 15 over his last 6-7 games.

        He was only barely holding on to his Shield spot by the end of the season.

        • April 16th 2018 @ 8:46am
          Paul said | April 16th 2018 @ 8:46am | ! Report

          Handscomb was not a whole lot better Ronan and looked far worse. My point is simple, don’t discount guys who aren’t in your current mix.

    • April 15th 2018 @ 11:15am
      Adam said | April 15th 2018 @ 11:15am | ! Report

      And like Ronan the 5 players he mentioned are the frontrunners and they deserve to be since they perform every were else except Cartwright.

    • April 15th 2018 @ 2:42pm
      BurgyGreen said | April 15th 2018 @ 2:42pm | ! Report

      It’ll be interesting to see how Cartwright and Head go in the County Championship. Both had poor games to start with. However Head’s side are batting him at 6 which won’t do him a whole lot of good.

      Personally I feel that Cartwright is the much better player. Hopefully he can make some runs.

      My pecking order to get into the top 6 would be:

      1. Maxwell
      2. Cartwright
      3. Patterson
      4. Ferguson
      5. Finch

      With Head etc. bringing up the rear – a lot of the other options are very loose players

      • April 15th 2018 @ 2:53pm
        Adam said | April 15th 2018 @ 2:53pm | ! Report

        Head batting at 5 but was scared so sent a nightwatchman in if cartwright ha a bad season he would slide down to 5.

      • April 15th 2018 @ 3:15pm
        Bakkies said | April 15th 2018 @ 3:15pm | ! Report

        Cartwright got a golden duck in the MCCU match which is not good. Got to cash in those games.

      • Columnist

        April 15th 2018 @ 5:24pm
        Ronan O'Connell said | April 15th 2018 @ 5:24pm | ! Report

        If Australia are looking for a veteran to do a short term Fix It role, like Voges or Rogers did, then I think Ferguson is clearly the best choice.

        It was insane for him to get dropped after just one Test in which basically the whole side failed.

        • April 15th 2018 @ 11:13pm
          KenoathCarnt said | April 15th 2018 @ 11:13pm | ! Report

          Lol one of those innings was also a run out incredibly unlucky it is quite scary knowing you have selectors that are willing to drop players just like that.

        • Roar Guru

          April 16th 2018 @ 10:48am
          Ryan H said | April 16th 2018 @ 10:48am | ! Report

          Ferguson would be ideal in the middle order at 4 or 5, topped the Shield run-scoring in the season just gone, and has produced consistent numbers for a long time. Also should never have been discared in the first place after merely one test; absolutely shafted.

          • April 16th 2018 @ 1:33pm
            BurgyGreen said | April 16th 2018 @ 1:33pm | ! Report

            He was definitely harshly dropped, but it concerns me that after all these years he still averages below 40. However, I think he could do a job in the middle order for the time being.

            • Columnist

              April 16th 2018 @ 11:32pm
              Ronan O'Connell said | April 16th 2018 @ 11:32pm | ! Report

              Burgy I’m not at all concerned by Ferguson’s career average what is of more interest to me is the fact that over the past 5 years he has made 4,100 runs at an average of 48 in first-class cricket.

              • April 17th 2018 @ 11:59am
                BurgyGreen said | April 17th 2018 @ 11:59am | ! Report

                That’s fair enough Ronan – I’m just conscious of the fact that very few Australian batsmen with a career average below 40 have gone on to be a success at the highest level.

                The older batsmen that we’ve used as stop-gaps in recent years – Rogers and Voges – averaged around 50 and 45 at first class level respectively.

    • April 15th 2018 @ 3:13pm
      Adam said | April 15th 2018 @ 3:13pm | ! Report

      Cartwright made 30 of 32 and 0 of 4 he will struggle in England were finch averaged 47 for 4 years.

      • Columnist

        April 15th 2018 @ 5:26pm
        Ronan O'Connell said | April 15th 2018 @ 5:26pm | ! Report

        Have you seen the match scores in the 1st round of county? Low team totals galore as seamers dominate on early season green monsters.

        • April 15th 2018 @ 5:33pm
          Bakkies said | April 15th 2018 @ 5:33pm | ! Report

          A lot of matches recently in England have been affected by rain. The MCCU matches was so badly affected they barely got through one innings.

          They are due a good run of nice weather so we will see what happens.

        • April 15th 2018 @ 7:26pm
          Adam said | April 15th 2018 @ 7:26pm | ! Report

          And they weren’t green when finch averaged 47 for 4 years Cartwright had a great start to his career but now the real Hilton has come he is to inconsistent since his 2 good years after that not much in any form.Ronan

    • Roar Rookie

      April 15th 2018 @ 4:53pm
      S.M. Hussain said | April 15th 2018 @ 4:53pm | ! Report

      Do you think there will come a time when ‘Cricket Committee’ will change ball tampering laws to make it more ‘bowlers’ friendly’?

      • Columnist

        April 15th 2018 @ 5:29pm
        Ronan O'Connell said | April 15th 2018 @ 5:29pm | ! Report

        Just get rid of the Kookaburra balls, use Dukes in Tests the world over, and be tougher in punishing grounds that produce crap flat pitches.

        • April 15th 2018 @ 6:59pm
          KenoathCarnt said | April 15th 2018 @ 6:59pm | ! Report

          Great point the Duke balls seem to stay harder for longer which is absolutely great who doesnt want to see more opportunities for bowlers on useless flat wickets.

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