Matt Renshaw and Travis Head are having decent county seasons over in England, but current Test batsman Shaun Marsh and former Test all-rounder Hilton Cartwright are labouring.
The 34-year-old Marsh, who looks cemented in the Test team after the one-year bans handed to Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft, has made 203 runs at 29 for Glamorgan in Division Two.
Cartwright, meanwhile, has greatly reduced his chances of making next year’s Ashes tour by averaging a paltry eight with the bat from six matches. The West Australian has incredibly scored five ducks from just nine innings.
What makes his struggles even worse is that they’ve come in Division Two of the County Championship, which is significantly weaker than Division One. In six first-class matches in England this season, the 26-year-old has made just 78 runs at an average of 8. To put that into perspective, last season in Division Two, Australian fast bowler James Pattinson played five matches and crunched 197 runs at 49.
Cartwright is going through a nightmare patch in first-class cricket. He was averaging more than 50 in the longest format when he played his two Tests last year – the first at home against Pakistan and the second in Bangladesh.
Since then, however, he has averaged just 24 with the bat across 16 first-class matches.
Head, meanwhile, may well have ascended in the Test batting queue over the past month. The 24-year-old South Australian is the 11th highest runscorer in Division One, with 291 runs at 36 – an unspectacular but solid return given the often bowler-friendly conditions in the early stages of the season.
This is also Head’s first proper stint in the County Championship so his results are encouraging given how often Australian batsmen struggle to adapt to English conditions when they first encounter them.
His run haul would be substantially larger if he had managed to capitalise on more of his frequent good starts for Worcestershire. In nine innings, he has made six scores of between 29 and 62. While he would no doubt be frustrated by having wasted so many chances to kick on, it’s a decent problem to have – getting a start in English conditions is a tough task.
It’s also a good sign given that the biggest knock on Head’s batting at first-class level is a perceived leaky defence. I must admit that it was for this reason I thought Head would battle to make runs in England but so far he’s been quite impressive.
While Head is yet to be picked in an Australian Test squad, he’s long seemed earmarked as a potential Test player and has played 44 limited overs matches for Australia. He can’t be far away from Test selection given his consistency in the Sheffield Shield, having scored between 641 and 738 runs in each of the past four Shield seasons.
During that time he’s made 2745 runs at 40 in the Shield, including seven tons.
Directly above Head, in tenth spot on the Division One runscorers’ list, with 305 runs at 51, sits incumbent Test opener Renshaw.
In his first season of county cricket the 22-year-old has set the competition alight, scoring two tons in his first three knocks. At the time, batsmen across England were struggling in the seaming conditions, yet Renshaw made batting look elementary for Somerset.
First, he made 101* from 139 balls, out of a Somerset total of 202 in what was a low-scoring match. Then he took apart Yorkshire’s highly-rated attack, hammering 112 from 99 balls
To understand just how remarkable an innings that was, consider that the team totals across the match were only 216, 96, 200 and 202.
This continues Renshaw’s run of hot form in first-class cricket over the past six months, having piled up 1023 runs at 60 in that time, including five tons.
His ability to flourish in English conditions bodes well for next year’s Ashes, during which Renshaw looks set to have a crucial role of trying to blunt James Anderson and Stuart Broad.
Meanwhile, seamers Peter Siddle and Joe Mennie are keeping themselves in contention for the Ashes with good performances in Division One. Siddle has taken 20 wickets at 16, while Mennie has grabbed 16 wickets at 21 and been a surprise packet with the blade, notching two half-centuries amid a haul of 141 runs at 35.