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Shield wrap: How Test hopefuls fared

Test spots remain up for grabs for the Ashes after intriguing opening Sheffield Shield round

A low-scoring opening round of the JLT Sheffield Shield has failed to deliver any definitive answers to Australia's selectors ahead of the start of the Magellan Ashes next month.

Batters around the country struggled against the pink ball, with an average of just 20 runs per wicket across the three matches and two teams dismissed for less than 100.

With the race for the No.6 and No.7 spots in the Test side wide open, we take a look at how the contenders fared and also how the Test certainties performed in their return to first-class cricket.

BATSMEN


The certainties

Steve Smith: 3 and 9
David Warner: 83 and 32
Matthew Renshaw: 17 and 16
Usman Khawaja: 40 and 122
Peter Handscomb: 9 and 34

Khawaja compiles Shield century in Brisbane

In a low-scoring round of cricket, the performances of Usman Khawaja and David Warner would have pleased the Australians heading into the Test summer. Captain Steve Smith and Matthew Renshaw have been short of runs of late and they, as well as Victorian Peter Handscomb, will be hoping for more time at the crease in the next two rounds of Shield cricket.

The contenders

Hilton Cartwright: 61 and 38
Glenn Maxwell: 7 and 20
Shaun Marsh: 63 and 11
Marcus Stoinis: 9 and 32
Mitch Marsh: 36 and 4
Travis Head: 8 and 0
Nic Maddinson: 5 and 0
Kurtis Patterson: 14 and 0
Moises Henriques: 11 and 4no
Daniel Hughes: 57 and 7no
Joe Burns: 3 and 38

Cartwright pushes Ashes case with half-century

None of the major contenders to fill the No.6 spot in the Ashes jumped out of the pack in Round 1, although Hilton Cartwright - who filled that position in Australia's most recent Test in Chittagong -  strengthened his case with a total of 99 runs in a low-scoring game in Perth. Shaun Marsh also continued his hot run of form in the west, as did NSW left-hander Daniel Hughes, but incumbent Glenn Maxwell fluffed his lines and Marcus Stoinis, Mitch Marsh, Travis Head and Joe Burns will need to do more to have any chance. NSW trio Nic Maddinson, Kurtis Patterson and Moises Henriques are all outside chances and they did little to push their names forward with low scores in Adelaide.

WICKETKEEPERS

Matthew Wade: 1 and 6; 3 catches
Peter Nevill: 20 and DNB; 1 catch
Alex Carey: 12 and 4; 2 catches

The biggest mystery surrounding Australia's Test team remains unsolved after the major contenders to take the gloves in Brisbane did little to push their respective cases in Round 1. With the bat, Peter Nevill defied the tricky conditions late on day one in Adelaide but couldn't capitalise on day two, while incumbent Matthew Wade and outsider Alex Carey were unable to get out of first gear in their two chances at the crease. With the gloves, both Nevill or Carey were charged with Grade 1 errors on a low, seaming wicket. The Blues keeper spilt an easy chance on Sunday and Carey was perhaps unlucky to receive a Grade 1 error for a difficult chance off a left-hander's edge keeping up to Lyon. However, Carey did take a smart diving catch in front of first slip to dismiss David Warner on day one. Wade took three catches on a deteriorating wicket in Perth and was Grade 1 error free, but his twin failures with the bat will be of a bigger concern for him.

Sheffield Shield fielding stats, from 2011-12 


BOWLERS


The certainties

Mitch Starc: 2-46 and 8-73
Pat Cummins: 2-22 and 0-71
Nathan Lyon: DNB and 2-26

Super Starc snares career-best figures

In his first first-class match since March, Mitchell Starc showed he's ready to hit top form this summer with a career-best eight-wicket haul in the second innings and 10 wickets for the match. Starc and Trent Copeland starred with the ball for the Blues and while Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon only managed two wickets each, they both got some handy overs under their belts. All eyes will now be on how Josh Hazlewood fairs in his return to action, which is likely to come in Round 2 against Western Australia.

The contenders

Nathan Coulter-Nile: 1-23 and 3-18, 42 and 52
Chadd Sayers: 4-82 and 2-22
Jackson Bird: 4-61 and 2-85

Athletic NCN removes Bailey with a stunner

The race to be the next quick in line behind the NSW trio this summer heated up in Round 1 with the three leading contenders all performing strongly for their respective states. Jackson Bird (6-146) was a lone bright spot for Tasmania in their heavy defeat, while Chadd Sayers (6-104) continued his dominance of the Shield competition to edge ever closer to a Test debut. The successful return to first-class cricket of injury-prone quick Nathan Coulter-Nile, as much as the wickets he took and the runs he scored, was also a major positive as he eases back into long-form cricket.

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