Heading into the fourth Test of the Summer I wrote an article suggesting that Michael Neser should at least be considered in terms of selection for the Australian Test side.
This was based more on a suggestion that was somewhat outside-the-box heading into a must-win decider rather than something I believed would happen.
Now after another scintillating performance with the ball in the Sheffield Shield, it is becoming more and more difficult to argue against him warranting a Test call-up. The bowling all-rounder again proved himself as a brilliant new-ball bowler on the first day of the Shield final.
Neser spearheaded Queensland’s bowling attack, taking 5/27. Playing in one of the biggest games in his first-class career, Neser got Queensland off to the perfect start, dismissing New South Wales opener Matthew Gilkes, cannoning into the top of his off stump. He followed this up with crucial wickets of Jason Sangha and Jack Edwards to shift the momentum in Queensland’s favour shortly after lunch.
You’d be forgiven for thinking the beginning of Michael Neser’s day was all smooth sailing, except it wasn’t. Battling back spasms, Neser crusaded through with the help of only painkillers and a short physio session. Then he backed it up again in the final session to clean up the NSW tail and claim his second five-wicket haul of the season.
What sets Neser out as a player that must be selected for Australia is not only his perseverance, which was evident today but also his brilliant consistency and ability to constantly apply pressure to the opposition. The 31-year-old’s 5/27 came off the back off 13 overs and during that time, rarely allowed any of the NSW batsmen to free their arms and play shots with ease.
This constant pressure is what can win or lose you Test matches. We need to look no further than the Gabba Test to see how erratic bowling when searching for wickets can hinder your chances of winning. Australia’s former go-to fast bowler, Mitchell Starc, has struggled to keep batsmen contained when trying to take wickets.
During the Test series, Starc would often make poor use of the new ball with half of his deliveries too short or going down the legside. His inconsistency ultimately played a big part in India chasing down a record total at the Gabba to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy and furthermore ruin Australia’s Test championship hopes.
I expected Starc to regain his form in the Sheffield Shield games, however, this has not been the case. This season he has averaged 47 with a strike rate of almost 80. Whereas Michael Neser has been averaging 23 with a strike rate just above 60 this season.
Today’s play summed up the two bowlers perfectly. Neser, as always, was asking the batsmen questions and taking scalps at important moments. Starc on the other hand had the chance to tilt the balance of the game back towards New South Wales’ favour. Instead, he seemed more interested in bouncing Queensland opener Bryce Street and attempting to intimidate him rather than let the ball do the talking.
Looking from the outside I would say that Starc doesn’t have the same high level of mentality that is seen from the other Aussie quicks.
Obviously, experience does play in Starc’s favour, but the Ashes are at the end of the year. The series that is most important to all Australians. The selectors surely can’t continue with an out-of-form bowler in a critical summer for Australian cricket.
If Neser can continue this purple patch that he has been in for the last three years and Starc doesn’t rapidly improve his form, then choosing Starc over Neser for the first Ashes Test would be criminal.