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Why Michael Neser must play in the first Test

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Roar Guru
28th October, 2019
13
1810 Reads

Michael Neser must be in the Australian XI for the first Test against Pakistan at the Gabba on November 21.

The 29-year-old South African-born quick has been the most consistent and underrated performer in the last 24 months of Australian domestic cricket, playing his role for Queensland with both bat and ball.

Since the start of the 2017/18 Sheffield Shield season, Neser has played 21 matches, scoring 823 runs at an average of 30.48 with the bat, while also taking 84 wickets at just 21.46.

These are outstanding numbers from what is the country’s best long-form all-rounder, and recognition is well deserved.

Neser’s presence in the United Kingdom during the Ashes tour was a smart move from the Australian selectors, as it gave a nod to the hard-working state-league players, while giving exposure to a future Test player.

His relevance to the international discussion is only piquing now he has strung together injury-free cricket for an extended period of time.

Neser suffered from injuries early in his career, limiting his ability to nail down a spot in Queensland’s best team until his mid-20s.

In recent times, the all-rounder – who will be playing his 50th first-class match shortly – has clearly been identified as Queensland’s most important bowler, and perhaps their most important player, often opening the bowling and batting at seven.

Queensland all-rounder Michael Neser

(Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

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What appeals most about Neser – other than his naturally excellent record at the Gabba – is his ability to bowl in multiple styles depending on the game situation.

Fine-tuning his craft for the Adelaide Strikers in particular, Neser can bowl with late in-swing, troubling right-handed batsmen at all times, while being equally as capable as a heavy-ball bowler.

Seemingly tireless, Neser is a bit like Pat Cummins in his bustling and busy approach to the crease, with an ability to bowl long spells if necessary.

Often seen as a bowler’s pitch, the Gabba hosting the first Test is almost too perfect to blood a veteran debutant who can provide immediately good output for Australia.

Many will refer to Mitch Starc as the obvious third pace-bowling choice, particularly after his ten-wicket performance against Tasmania.

Rewarding truly outstanding form in the domestic cricket should be a priority given the state of the Australian cricket team. Marnus Labuschagne and Matthew Wade were rewarded and delivered during the Ashes, while Peter Siddle played his role well.

Starc’s ten-wicket performance had backed up 1/87 and 0/42 at the Gabba of all places, where ball was the dominant aspect of the fixture.

The 29-year-old has an indifferent record at the Gabba in Tests as well. In six Tests, Starc has taken 25 wickets at an average of 30.63 – far from terrible – but his economy rate is 3.85 and 11 of his wickets have come from batsmen seven to 11 in the order, wrapping up the tail with his typically dangerous yorkers at tail-enders.

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The argument that Starc needs to be picked at the Gabba isn’t as strong as people may like it to be.

The main two pace spots are locked in, with both Cummins and Hazlewood in excellent form and with good records at the venue.

Josh Hazlewood has 17 wickets at 29.64, however his economy rate is 2.96 and his metronomic consistency is invaluable to the Australian team.

Pat Cummins has a typically brilliant record at the Gabba, with 14 wickets 11.54.

The other bowler who will come into consideration is James Pattinson, who has 11 wickets at 22 in his two matches at the venue.

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Bowling well without much luck, Pattinson’s successful return during the Ashes means he will be a part of a larger pace rotation during a busy period of time.

What Australia need to find right now, though, is a reliable third bowling option who can deliver in all facets of the game, and build into an extended Test career.

With Neser’s elite form in red-ball cricket and at the Gabba, now is the time to select him.

It has been a little while since Australia has had the quiet, unassuming type of bowler within its set-up.

Ryan Harris springs to mind when thinking about the sort of player Australia is eager to discover during this home summer.

It’s a big comparison to live up to, but if Australia are serious about rewarding form and engaging state cricketers to believe that opportunities are there for those who deserve it, the country’s best domestic all-rounder should be given the chance.

‘Rhino’ was a cult hero who came into his own later in his career.

Michael Neser is next in line for the role, and he must play Test cricket on November 21.

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