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AUSTRALIA V INDIA TESTS

Head's case to secure No.6 spot

11 January 2017

Travis Head has scored three fifties from 14 ODI innings // Getty

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South Australian out to press Test claim with bat - and white ball - in Pakistan ODI series

About the Writer:
 @martinsmith9994

Martin Smith is a writer for cricket.com.au. He previously wrote for Yahoo!7 Sport and Fox Sports.

As Australia's selectors ponder their options for the highly-anticipated tour of India next month, the long-standing issue of number six undoubtedly remains one of their most contentious decisions.

Australia's top five is settled enough after they contributed a combined total of eight centuries between them during their four-match winning streak to end the Test summer, but the identity of the number six for India and beyond remains uncertain.

Four men were trialled in the position during six Tests this summer – Mitchell Marsh, Callum Ferguson, Nic Maddinson and Hilton Cartwright – with none able to produce an innings of great substance and cement their spot.

It means that any standout performances in the next few weeks, albeit in white-ball cricket, could count for plenty as Australia's interim panel finalises the touring party.

And one man who could push his name forward is South Australia captain Travis Head, an uncapped batsman of enormous potential whose handy off-spin could also provide Australia with the fifth-bowling option they are looking for.

Head removes Marsh with a screamer

Head's bowling, much like Cartwright's, is steady rather than spectacular and would serve mostly as a back-up option, although the turning conditions in India should suit him.

And it could give him the edge he needs to get on the plane to India.

"It's something that I work really hard on and I got some results this year, which has been really satisfying," Head said in Brisbane today after a lengthy bowling stint in the nets ahead of the opening match of the VB ODI series at the Gabba on Friday.

"In the Big Bash I haven't got the runs I would have liked ... I haven't contributed to wins with the bat but I've been able to do the job with the ball.

"Coming out of the Big Bash, it's nice to get some results with the ball because I've put in a lot of hard work over the last few months."

Head crashes on New Year's Eve

Head carried the spin workload in two matches of Australia's one-day series against New Zealand last month, and could do so again on Friday if the hosts overlook Adam Zampa and opt for a pace-heavy bowling attack comprising of Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, James Faulkner and uncapped quick Billy Stanlake.

Quick Single: Zampa presses his Test case

And while Head's bowling is handy, it's his batting at both international and Shield level this summer that has impressed the most.

The left-hander averaged more than 50 from 10 Sheffield Shield matches last year (four this season, six last season) and has scores of 66, 43, 37, 34, 130 and 52 so far this summer, while he's also chipped in with seven wickets at 35.

He then put together scores of 52, 57 and 37 against the Black Caps, underlining the ability that saw him handed the Redbacks captaincy at just 21, and then given an international debut at 22.

Head hammers second consecutive fifty

"You can only do what you can do in Shield cricket, get runs and wickets and then keep performing," he said when asked about his prospects for the India tour.

"In the next couple of one-day games, if I'm in the team and making runs at the right time (that will help me).

"I think we've seen with a lot of guys that runs at the right time helps.

"I'm looking forward to the next five games and trying to do my job in the side, as well as stay in the side. And then we'll see what happens."

First though, Head needs to pull himself out of a noticeable drop in form during the KFC Big Bash League, where he contributed just 76 runs in five games.

And with veteran George Bailey axed from the ODI side, there's a chance for Head to solidify his spot in the middle order ahead of the Champions Trophy in June.

Head chips in with crucial half-century

"(The NZ series) was a little bit satisfying, but a little bit disappointing as well that I wasn't able to go on and get a bigger score," he said.

"I had the opportunity to do that in a few games and I wasn't able to do that.

"I feel in good form and I'm batting well in the nets ... if I get my opportunity in a couple of days I'll be looking forward to it."

Head ready to step up in ODI series


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