Western Australia are showing no signs of letting up as the double defending champions have flexed their muscles in the opening three rounds of the Sheffield Shield.
Tasmania are also undefeated, Victoria managed to secure a much-needed win after two losses but there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel for NSW who are winless in their past 15 outings.
One of the subplots is always the competition between the contenders for the Test team and the opening slot is the main talking point for this debate at the moment for when David Warner retires after the three-match Pakistan series.
While Cameron Bancroft, Matt Renshaw and Marcus Harris were being touted as potential replacements- there were a few others who had also put their name into the mix last season.
From the first three rounds, Renshaw and Bancroft are the clear frontrunners to replace Warner ahead of Harris.
Bancroft has continued his dominating form shown over the past few seasons with two centuries in his 370 runs in four innings with an average of 92.5.
Renshaw also has a century and two 50s to his name at an average of 54.2. so that makes for quite healthy competition in the remaining three rounds before the Test summer starts.
The real surprise in the Shield’s top five batting list is the name of Michael Neser who has scored at an incredible average of 75.75 in these three rounds. After struggling to break into the Test team as a specialist bowler, he is now making the case to be considered as an all-rounder.
There are three names that are bolting in from the blue (not the NSW variety) for the Test selection equation in the future.
South Australia’s Nathan McSweeney is averaging 46.66 with the bat – and already has a ton, a half-century and a match-winning performance in the last round. His numbers have been on the rise since last year.
Getting out on 99 was very disappointing for Western Australia all-rounder Aaron Hardie but he has again done really well with 250 runs at an average of 57.25.
After getting a start in the white-ball formats recently, he must now be in consideration for all three formats.
Queensland’s Jack Clayton has also caught the eye with a ton and a 90 to his name in amassing 211 runs at 42.2. The left-hander has talent but now needs to build on this solid start to be considered for selection at the national level.
There have also been a few disappointments from the batters that usually have been very solid in recent seasons and being talked about as contenders for national team.
Tasmanian openers Caleb Jewell (23) and Tim Ward (14.75) are struggling, as is South Australia’s Henry Hunt with 88 runs from six hits at 14.66.
WA young gun Teague Wyllie made another fine start to the season with a 96 but has not gone on with it – he is real gem of a prospect for the Test team.
Campbell Kellaway has also failed in the first two rounds but big things are expected from the Victorian youngster.
On the bowling front while NSW seamer Chris Tremain is leading the wicket tally with 16 at 18.62 – it is a real surprise to see two spinners in Corey Rocchiccioli and Mitchell Swepson being the next two on the list.
NSW expat Nathan McAndrew is putting his name into the national debate with a couple of five-wicket hauls for South Australia but Jhye Richardson has unfortunately been sidelined again, this time with a shoulder injury.
His WA teammate Lance Morris manage to get a match under his belt to take three wickets on the comeback trail from injury and will no doubt be in the reckoning when the Test season starts.
It has not been a particularly great time for the Test spinners – Todd Murphy has toiled hard with an average of 56 for his five wickets and Nathan Lyon made his comeback from his calf problem in the third round and it was a tough one for the Australian offie with a solitary wicket in his 36 overs and ending up on the losing side.
WA and Tassie deserve to be at the top of the standings, the middle of the table is tightly bunched but the Blues need a dramatic turnaround in form to mount a challenge.
It seems inevitable that Western Australia will be getting to another final and the question is who would be their opponents this time around?