Ashes bid: State batsmen will need to defy recent trend


Australia's state cricketers will have to defy the trend of the past decade if they are to deliver what national selection chairman Trevor Hohns really wants.

Hohns made it clear while unveiling the Test squad for this week's Ashes opener that the selectors were tired of inconsistent and underperforming batsmen in the Sheffield Shield.

That frustration has been exacerbated through the opening three rounds of this summer's competition where only Western Australian Cameron Bancroft produced what Hohns had craved - a series of imposing knocks. Bancroft delivered successive half-centuries against a Test quality NSW attack last week and backed up with a double-century against a four-man South Australian pace attack regarded as the most reliable in the shield.

Hohns has declared he wants batsmen "belting down the door" to force their elevation into the Test side, and the best way to do that is to post a 1000-run shield campaign, something which was a common trait through the late 1980s, when the selectors wanted a settled line-up after years of pain, and through the 1990s when Australia rose to dominance.

Through the dominant period of 1999 to 2005-06, a dozen batsmen scored more than 1000 runs, with Victorian Matthew Elliott doing it twice. Others included Darren Lehmann, Simon Katich, Jamie Cox, Stuart Law and Jimmy Maher. Many of the dozen batsmen were annually prolific but could still not break into the Test side, something Victorian and South Australian batsman Jamie Siddons had experienced years earlier. Brad Hodge and Mike Hussey had plundered 10,000 first-class runs before they were given a call up.

Contrast this to the past decade where only five batsmen spread over three seasons have had 1000-run campaigns since 2007-08. Simon Katich and David Hussey did so in 2007-08, Michael Klinger and Chris Rogers followed the summer later while it wasn't until 2014-15 that the feat was enjoyed again, with Adam Voges joining the prolific Klinger, who enjoyed the feat for a second time.

That Klinger and Hussey were never to play a Test has been pointed out by those in state ranks that scoring a mountain of runs is no guarantee of earning a baggy green cap.

"It's all very well to say that the bar needs to be raised but look at last year's leading run scorers, only Cartwright was in the frame for Test selection against England," one state official said.

"Sometimes a talent comes through that needs to be picked but there have been too many players chosen for Australia who haven't done enough for their states."

The five leading domestic run scorers last summer were Ed Cowan (959 at 73.76, three centuries), Hilton Cartwright (861 at 53.81, two centuries), George Bailey (839 at 59.92, two centuries), Marcus Harris (808 at 42.52, two centuries) and Moises Henriques (775 at 64.58, two centuries).

Hohns said he wants contenders to bat for time but couldn't categorically claim the advent of Twenty20 cricket was to blame for the issues in this area. However, he made it clear what he wants.

"Not mediocre performances, we want to raise the bar, some of them belting the door down with performances to keep the pressure on the boys that have been chosen and I think that will make our whole competition, our whole Australian set-up a lot stronger, if there is good competition for positions," he said.

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This story Ashes bid: State batsmen will need to defy recent trend first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.