JLT Sheffield Shield 2018-19

Test stars set for Shield round

Some of the biggest names in Australian cricket will push their claims for a Test call-up next week

Sam Ferris

9 November 2018, 02:08 PM AEST

Round Four of the JLT Sheffield Shield looms as a pivotal one ahead of the first Test against India, with a host of Test aspirants and incumbents set to lock horns across the country.

The marquee match of the round will see NSW take on Queensland in Canberra, where Australia's Ashes-winning bowling attack of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon could all feature.

It's unclear whether all three pacemen will be available for the match starting on November 16, but it's likely at least two of the frontline quicks will play in the clash at Manuka Oval.

Australia coach Justin Langer said the pace trio will miss the Gillette T20I Series against South Africa and India to best prepare for the Domain Test series against India in what is a long summer of cricket. 

Facing that imposing Blues attack will be a pair of Bulls batters pushing their claims for a Test return - Matthew Renshaw and Joe Burns - while Marnus Labuschagne will be hoping for a big score to retain his place.

Having missed out in his first Shield match of the season after being overlooked for the Pakistan Test series due to a lack of match practice, Renshaw returned to form with 89 from 215 balls against Western Australia last week.

Burns has compiled 216 runs from six Shield innings this summer, his last knock an unbeaten 80 against WA that represents his season's best.

Labuschagne has just 52 runs in four trips to the crease since returning from the UAE and his position in the Test side is probably under the most pressure. But a strong showing against an international-calibre Blues attack from any of these players will put their name right in the spotlight.

In Adelaide, South Australia will host Western Australia where Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh and Travis Head will all be looking to spend time in the middle and cement their positions in the Test XI.

Marsh's big statement against the Bulls

Despite a poor showing in the Tests against Pakistan, the Marsh brothers have returned to form in Shield cricket and appear to be near certainties for the first Test against India at Adelaide Oval on December 6.

While a fine 72 in Australia’s drawn first Test in Dubai represented a bright start to his Test career, Head will still be keen for runs at Shield level to be certain of retaining his position to take on India.

Vying for a spot in the middle order will be Head’s SA teammates Callum Ferguson, Jake Lehmann and veteran right-hander Tom Cooper, who is South Australia's leading run-scorer and the only player in the competition with two centuries so this summer.

Classy Cooper tons up at MCG

Most of the focus will be on the batters, but WA's Jhye Richardson and the SA duo of Chadd Sayers and Joe Mennie will be also be keen to put out reminders to the selectors of why they've been in the Test set-up over the past few seasons.

Sayers made his Test debut in the fourth Test in Johannesburg in April and Richardson was also part of the touring party, but both quicks were overlooked for the series in the UAE. Mennie, meanwhile, has made a strong start to the season and will be hoping to add to his one Test cap from 2016 in Hobart against South Africa.

Also applying the pressure to the pace trio of Starc, Hazlewood and Cummins will be the Victoria quartet of Peter Siddle, James Pattinson, Chris Tremain and Scott Boland, who will face Tasmania in Hobart from November 17.

Boland in seventh heaven after MCG haul

Siddle is an incumbent Test fast bowler having made a successful international comeback in the UAE, but that was without Cummins and Hazlewood available for selection.

If the 'Big Three' are fit for the first Test, it's possible the reserve fast bowler could come from Victoria, whether it be veteran Siddle or one of Tremain or Boland, who have both played at the highest level in the 50-over format.

Boland (24) and Tremain (17) are the Shield's two highest wicket-takers so far this season (along with Mennie, who also has 17) and their extra pace has been noted as point of difference on home pitches.

Pattinson made a successful return to first-class cricket last week following his latest serious back injury, but he himself is aiming for an international return in next year’s Ashes series in England and appears unlikely to force his way into the Test side this summer.

Patto pounces with three big scalps

Tasmania's Jackson Bird played in the Ashes last summer and will also be desperate to get back into the Test XI, and there’ll be no better way of doing than by taking a bag of wickets against Victoria's powerful batting line-up.

Victoria opener Marcus Harris has been the form batter of the Shield competition this season and his skipper Peter Handscomb could not have timed his first Shield century of the season any better, with 123 in the last round against South Australia at the MCG sending a reminder of his quality.

Hungry Handscomb's timely hundred

Leading all run-scorers this summer is Tigers top-order veteran Alex Doolan, who has amassed 350 runs at 58.33 with one century and three fifties.

Doolan, Test captain Tim Paine and Matthew Wade will also get to showcase their abilities against the Vics, perhaps the best attack in the country on home soil.

JLT Sheffield Shield - Round Four

November 16: NSW v Queensland, Manuka Oval

November 16: South Australia v Western Australia, Adelaide Oval

November 17: Tasmania v Victoria, Blundstone Arena