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Head eyes early Shield rounds for Ashes push

South Australia skipper eager for red-ball return to push for a Test berth batting at No.6

Having blown a perfect opportunity to secure the No.4 spot in Australia's one-day side, Travis Head will get a golden chance in a fortnight to push for an unlikely Test debut this summer.

The No.6 position in Australia's Test side for the Magellan Ashes will come down to who fires the most meaningful shot when the JLT Sheffield Shield gets underway on October 26, with three Shield rounds before the first Test in Brisbane.

Captain of South Australia, Head arguably has a leg-up on his rivals in their opening Shield match when the Redbacks will take on a star-studded NSW Blues side in a day-night clash.

Full JLT Sheffield Shield fixture here

Shield runs against any team will count for plenty in the minds of selectors, but a strong performance against a likely NSW attack of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon – Australia's probable bowling quartet for the first Test – under lights at Adelaide Oval would be a significant boost to Head's case for a Test debut.

"You want to play against the best team and they're the best team in the country at full strength," Head said of NSW from Hyderabad, where Australia is preparing for their final T20 against India.

"With a pink ball under lights, Adelaide Oval gave the seam bowlers a little bit extra last year so it's going to be tough conditions against tough opposition. They're the perfect games you want to get runs in. I can't wait to play against them.

Flashback: Starc under lights in a 2015 Shield match

"The selectors have been pretty open and said the blokes who are in form and are getting runs (will be in contention).

"I knew coming here (to India) that if I got runs I would have moved a bit closer to that and at least put my hand up. I haven't been able to do that so that makes the next three Shield games more important to even put my case forward.

"I feel I'm in good form but it just hasn't quite worked on this tour. But I hopefully I can go back and get some runs and at least put my hand up and see what happens."

Including Head, the 2015-16 Shield player of the year who managed 645 runs at 43 last season, there's as many as seven genuine chances to fill the role of fourth drop in the Test side.

Glenn Maxwell and Hilton Cartwright are Test incumbents, Marcus Stoinis has been one of the few Australians to fire on this tour of India, Shaun Marsh and Nic Maddinson have led the way in the early rounds of the JLT One-Day Cup and former Test skipper Steve Waugh this week threw allrounder Moises Henriques into the mix.

 

Head snapped a string of low scores on this Indian tour in Guwahati this week with an unbeaten 48 in a match-sealing 109-run partnership with Henriques that levelled the three-match series at 1-all.

Match wrap: Henriques, Behrendorff even ledger

Having been given a chance to fill the crucial No.4 spot in the ODI side, which Australia have struggled to fill since axing George Bailey earlier this year, Head produced scores of 5, 39, 4, 29, 42 – the worst return of his promising international career to date.

With credits in the bank following an excellent rookie year, Head will likely be given more chances this summer and he hopes to be given another shot at second drop.

"I've been able to get some starts but I haven't gone on with it," he said.

"There's definitely opportunities in the batting order. I did get one at four in this series and I didn't take that.

"Hopefully I get that opportunity in Australia come the first one-day game (against England in January)."

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