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Star in Shield, play Ashes: Lehmann

Australia coach anticipating biggest opening to a Sheffield Shield season in years with multiple spots in the Ashes XI up for grabs

Head coach Darren Lehmann has amped up the spotlight on the opening three JLT Sheffield Shield rounds after declaring first-class performances will decide the spots up for grabs in Australia's XI for the first Test of the Magellan Ashes.

Australia's No.6 batsman, wicketkeeper and reserve fast-bowling spots are all in contention following a mixture of poor form and injury over the past 12 months.

"It's the most exciting time for every cricketer around Australia at the moment," Lehmann told reporters on Friday.

"There's spots up for grabs as we know and we've got the JLT (One-Day Cup) going on and then three Shield rounds.

"It's really going to get down to the pressure of those first few Shield games to perform and put your name in lights."

Starc happy to 'blow out the cobwebs' in return

Mitchell Marsh, Nick Maddinson, Hilton Cartwright and Glenn Maxwell have each occupied the vital fourth-drop position since the start of last summer but have been unable to cement their place.

Maxwell scored a century at No.6 on Test return in Ranchi back in March but has failed to pass 50 in his next seven innings and was dropped from Australia's 50-over side in India last month.

In recent years Australia's selectors have opted to pick a seam-bowling allrounder at No.6 – namely Marsh – but have become more flexible in their thinking by picking specialist batsman Maddinson last summer, while Cartwright and Maxwell have barely bowled when chosen.

Batting collapses have been a concern for the Australians in all formats in the past two years, which means the No.6 spot could be used to bolster the top-order.

"We're pretty open with that," Lehmann said when asked about the preferred option at No.6.

"Obviously the back end of last summer we just went with the four bowlers and the way GOAT (off-spinner Nathan Lyon) has been bowling, he's been fantastic in the last 12 months.

"So, with England with so many left-handers as well, we could easily go with just the four.

"We've got to pick the best six batters to get us some runs and, including the 'keeper, the top seven have got to make enough runs, need a big series."

One spot lower in the batting order, the wicketkeeper position is up in the air following a lean run with bat by Test gloveman Matthew Wade.

Wade has averaged 20 since his Test recall in the fallout of the last summer's humiliation in Hobart and admitted his performances with the bat "haven't been good enough".

Wade's predecessor Peter Nevill is waiting in the wings, as is Redbacks gloveman Alex Carey, who scored a rapid-fire 60 at Hurstville in the JLT Cup and was selected as Australia A's 'keeper before the winter tour was boycotted by the players' union in Australian cricket's pay dispute.

"Matthew (Wade) has to make some runs in Shield cricket," Lehmann said.

"He's said that himself – making runs – he's been a bit disappointed.

"I thought he kept really well in the Indian series and the Bangladesh series but we obviously need runs from our 'keeper and our No.6.

"That's part and parcel of what we're looking for in these (JLT Cup) one-day games and the three Sheffield Shield games."

And Australia's fast bowling stocks have been rocked in the past week with the Ashes-ending injury to firebrand James Pattinson and the hamstring issue to seamer Jackson Bird.

While NSW trio Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins are expected to form the seam attack at the Gabba there is now an opportunity for the country's domestic quicks to put their hand up should injury strike during the Ashes.

Selectors Lehmann and Hohns have been taking in the JLT Cup // Getty
Selectors Lehmann and Hohns have been taking in the JLT Cup // Getty

Western Australian paceman Nathan Coulter-Nile has been impressive in his international comeback in the India ODI series, bowling at good pace and swinging the new ball.

The 29-year-old has been close to Test selection in the past, first in 2015-16 summer and then the tour to Sri Lanka six months later, but a horror run of injuries to both shoulders and his back have curtailed his Baggy Green dreams.

Now fit and firing, the right-armer is leading the pack of reserve quicks, but must play and perform in four-day cricket to be considered for a Test call-up, according to Lehmann.

"Coulter-Nile has been excellent," Lehmann said. He'll have to play obviously a couple (of Shield matches).

"Just have to wait and see how he pulls up after the T20 international series and then the Shield.

"Obviously disappointed with James (Pattinson) going down, that hurts the depth a little bit. Sad for him.

"He had a really good winter for us. He was available most of the time. Didn't play Champions Trophy but he started to make some good strides as a bowler."

The first round of the JLT Sheffield Shield starts on October 26 in Brisbane and Perth. Full schedule here.

England Test squad: Joe Root (c), Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Jake Ball, Gary Ballance, Stuart Broad, Alastair Cook, Mason Crane, Ben Foakes, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Ben Stokes, Mark Stoneman, James Vince, Chris Woakes.

2017-18 International Fixtures:

Magellan Ashes Series

First Test Gabba, November 23-27. Buy tickets

Second Test Adelaide Oval, December 2-6 (Day-Night). Buy tickets

Third Test WACA Ground, December 14-18. Buy tickets

Fourth Test MCG, December 26-30. Buy tickets

Fifth Test SCG, January 4-8 (Pink Test). Buy tickets

ODI Series v England

First ODI MCG, January 14. Buy tickets

Second ODI Gabba, January 19. Buy tickets

Third ODI SCG, January 21. Buy tickets

Fourth ODI Adelaide Oval, January 26. Buy tickets

Fifth ODI Perth TBC, January 28. Join the ACF

Prime Minister's XI

PM's XI v England Manuka Oval, February 2. Buy tickets

T20 trans-Tasman Tri-Series

First T20I Australia v NZ, SCG, February 3. Buy tickets

Second T20I – Australia v England, Blundstone Arena, February 7. Buy tickets

Third T20I – Australia v England, MCG, February 10. Buy tickets

Fourth T20I – NZ v England, Wellington, February 14

Fifth T20I – NZ v Australia, Eden Park, February 16

Sixth T20I – NZ v England, Seddon Park, February 18

Final – TBC, Eden Park, February 21