After each lost their national contract in the last 12 months, an Aussie batting trio must take advantage of their current stint in the County Championship.
In the coming months, Travis Head, Marcus Harris and Peter Handscomb have an opportunity to push their case during a period where few others have the chance.
Along with Glamorgan’s Marnus Labuschagne, the trio are the only Australian batters currently playing on the county circuit (Cameron Bancroft is set to join up with Durham later this season).
And with the IPL postponed, it’s all eyes on them.
Head did not retain his Cricket Australia central contract when the list was announced last month, while Victorian pair Harris and Handscomb lost theirs a year ago.
All three have struggled with the moving ball in recent times, and their latest outings for Australia have been typified by uncertainty outside off stump and poor footwork.
This makes the current UK stint — particularly in early-season conditions conducive to seam and swing — a crucial one.
With the enhancements in the counties’ streaming capabilities online, undoubtedly the Australian selectors will be following with interest.
Handscomb, the newly minted Middlesex captain, has not got off to a great start with just 31 runs in five innings.
Head has only played once — dismissed for 9 and 8 in his Sussex debut — while Harris has fared the best of the lot with 186 runs in his last three knocks, including a century in his most recent for Leicestershire.
All three, however, are coming off stellar domestic seasons.
Head was the Shield’s second-highest runscorer (893 runs at 68.7, including three centuries), Harris was the fifth-highest (695 runs at 63.2, including two centuries) and Handscomb was the Marsh One-Day Cup’s highest runscorer while also averaging 46.7 in the Shield.
The reason this current stint carries such importance is because each are only just outside Australia’s Test XI, and it’s not outrageous to suggest they could feature in next summer’s Ashes series.
If injury or form befalls one of Australia’s preferred top order, the trio (along with Moises Henriques and perhaps Alex Carey) are in the ‘next best’ bracket for selectors.
While pre-Ashes Shield form in October and November will (naturally) be more relevant, this current UK stint is crucial for all three to prove to selectors that they have matured as players.
Pleasingly, each has been honest about where improvements need to be made.
Handscomb has been open about his issues in the past and went a long way to rectifying them under Victorian coach Chris Rogers this season.
For Head, while some felt he was unlucky to be denied a national contract, the left-hander understood the decision.
“They want guys contributing in international cricket and winning games for Australia. When I had my opportunity, I wasn’t able to do that,” he said recently.
“It was great to go home and play really well in domestic cricket but at the end of the day, when I get my opportunity, I need to be able to take that in international cricket.”
The South Australian said he was glad to be over in the UK.
“It would have been difficult to be at home…having that (national contract) over my head. I get a great opportunity to have an impact at Sussex and make as many runs as possible. That’s the currency.”
Both Head and Handscomb were set to feature overnight in the most recent round of county fixtures.