India 'A' series on cards for Aussie hopefuls

Apr 03, 2024

Melbourne [Australia], April 3 : The race to grab Australia's reserve batting spots will gain momentum as the English County Championship starts on Friday.
The top six of the Australian batting line-up could be well-settled after six wins in seven Tests over the last Test summer against Pakistan, the West Indies and New Zealand, respectively, but players like Matthew Renshaw, Marcus Harris and Cameron Bancroft will continue their quest to become Australia's next long-term opener following the retirement of David Warner.
The aforementioned trio holds a County deal each for the Championship. Also, other players who have signed county contracts are 2023-24. Sheffield Shield top run-scorer Beau Webster and Peter Handscomb are making his return to Leicestershire
Over the last five seasons of the Shield, Bancroft, Handscomb, Webster and Harris have scored consistently and heavily for their respective teams and national chief selector George Bailey said that players will be getting chances to push their case as a reserve batter in the Test side.
While Australia's next assignment in whites will be the Border-Gavaskar Trophy at home against India, Bailey and the selection panel will be keeping their eyes on the opening rounds of the county championship in the UK.
Bancroft (Gloucestershire), Harris (Leicestershire), Renshaw (Somerset) and Handscomb will be playing from the very start, while Webster will join Gloucester in late May for the T20 Blast and four-day matches against Yorkshire and Glamorgan.
Bailey also revealed that India could send an 'A' team to Australia during the next Test summer, which could give players like South Australia's Nathan McSweeney some much-needed exposure if he is not able to secure a short-term county deal over the winter.
"We have been clear with a number of players that there are going to be great opportunities come the start of next year," Bailey told reporters after Cricket Australia announced the 23 men's players awarded central contracts for 2024-25, as quoted by
"A blank page is a good way of describing it. It is open for anyone to jump up and grab the opportunity," he added.
Renshaw missed out on a central contract despite accompanying the side as a reserve batter last summer, while Harris's national contract was not renewed either due to his underwhelming performance in the Shield, averaging under 30 for the first time in eight seasons.
"We were really clear with not only Matt (Renshaw), but the (other) guys who missed out as well, it was a really close decision to take him on that New Zealand tour," Bailey said.
"I know Marcus Harris is one who has come off contract but he is firmly in that mix as well, and Cam Bancroft."
"Nathan McSweeney's had a wonderful season as well. Throw in Aaron Hardie, Josh Inglis purely as a batsman and Beau Webster's year has been absolutely incredible."
"I think there is a handful of players that, with another 12 months of continuing to perform, can all be putting their hands up, and there is a reasonable amount of flexibility around where some of those players can bat as well," he concluded his point.
Hardie, a batting all-rounder, was one of the fresh faces in the latest Australian central contract list, which included new entries like Matt Short, Nathan Ellis and Xavier Bartlett.
But due to Australia's success over the last year, which saw them secure their first-ever ICC World Test Championship, retain the Ashes series against England away from home and sixth 50-over World Cup title, Bailey said that "onus (was) on those outside (the team) to make a really compelling case of why someone should be displaced".
Nathan Lyon (Lancashire), Scott Boland (Durham), Marnus Labuschagne (Glamorgan), Bartlett, Wes Agar (both Kent) and Chris Tremain (Northamptonshire) are the other Australians who will in action during the early rounds of the county championship.
England Test captain Ben Stokes will team up with Boland at Durham ahead of the English Test summer, featuring fixtures against Sri Lanka and West Indies, after opting out of the T20 World Cup 2024 selection in order to heal his body enough to play as a genuine all-rounder across all formats of the game following months of knee issues and a successful surgery.
Australians in the 2024 County Championship
Durham: Scott Boland
Essex: Daniel Sams (T20s only)
Glamorgan: Marnus Labuschagne
Gloucestershire: Cameron Bancroft, Beau Webster
Hampshire: Michael Neser, Ben McDermott (T20s only)
Kent: Xavier Bartlett, Wes Agar
Lancashire: Nathan Lyon
Leicestershire: Peter Handscomb, Marcus Harris
Northamptonshire: Chris Tremain
Somerset: Matthew Renshaw
Sussex: Nathan McAndrew, Daniel Hughes.