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Warriors duo prepare for Ashes audition

WA pair Hilton Cartwright and Shaun Marsh will have a prime opportunity to put their name forward for Australia's No. 6 spot

Test aspirants Hilton Cartwright and Shaun Marsh will have arguably the perfect opportunity to push their names forward for the vacant No.6 spot in Sydney this weekend.

Western Australia will face one of the toughest tests in domestic cricket at Hurstville Oval when they take on a NSW Blues bowling attack - Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Patrick Cummins and Nathan Lyon - on a surface that is reported to have a generous covering of grass on it.

Throw in the forecast of overcast and wet conditions and the Warriors batsmen are sure to be given a thorough working over by the same bowlers who are set to lead Australia's attack in the first Magellan Ashes Test in Brisbane.

Piles of runs the only currency: Marsh

It means that any runs Cartwright and Marsh manage to score this weekend, in front of skipper Steve Smith, his deputy David Warner and selector Mark Waugh, should be worth plenty when selectors meet to name the squad for the Gabba Test.

Allrounder Cartwright, who batted at No.6 in Australia's most recent Test in Bangladesh, and veteran Marsh are among the leading contenders to fill the troublesome position against England.

The duo posted half-centuries in the opening JLT Sheffield Shield round against Tasmania - Cartwright added a second-innings score of 38 as well - and both have this week earned the strong backing of state coach and former Test opener Justin Langer.

Smith, who last week said selectors were looking for players who can score runs in tough situations as much as big centuries in batting-friendly conditions, said the race for the No.6 spot remains wide open.

"He's a good player and he seems to be in form at the moment,” Smith said when asked specifically about Marsh. “If he scores runs this week against our good attack, that's certainly putting his name up there.

"I haven't seen the wicket at Hurstville yet but I've heard it's reasonably green.

"Hopefully the three (NSW quicks) can come out and bowl really well and get the ball to do a little bit and get the result we're after."

In a recent interview with cricket.com.au, Smith said mental fortitude under pressure was a major attribute he wants to see in his No.6, a position Australia has failed to adequately fill since the retirement of Mike Hussey almost five years ago.

"(I look for) guys who go well in tough situations," he said.

"If the whole team gets out and there's someone there who's 60 not out on a green seamer and they've done the hard yards and found a way to get through difficult situations, you like seeing those characters who do things when the chips are down."

One player who did just that in the opening Shield round was Smith's NSW teammate Daniel Hughes, who looms as a bolter for a Test debut this summer.

Smith personally (and controversially) intervened to ensure the in-form left-hander won a spot in the NSW side ahead of Ed Cowan last week and the 28-year-old repaid his skipper's faith with a gritty first-innings fifty.

Coming to the crease when the Blues were 4-95 having earlier routed South Australia for just 92, Hughes defied the tricky night-time conditions to be 30 not out at stumps before he was dismissed for 57 the following afternoon.

"I thought he batted really well," Smith said.

"On a tough wicket against bowlers who are suited to that kind of wicket, he adapted really nicely and had really good plans. He played really well."

NSW's match against WA can be live streamed on cricket.com.au and the CA Live app from 10.30am AEST on Saturday.


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

Gillette 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

Gillette T20 INTL 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 13

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

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

Final – TBC, Eden Park, February 21