India A v Australia A - Four-Day
Holland repays faith, eyes Test return
Victorian spinner and Bulls quick Michael Neser enhance Test prospects for Australia's UAE tour
4 September 2018, 09:24 AM AEST
Backed as the lone spinner in a crucial Test selection trial ahead of next month's series against Pakistan, Jon Holland did his chances of an international recall no harm as Australia A fought back in their four-day match against India A in Bengaluru.
After falling "a couple of runs short" in their first innings of 243 on Sunday, the Aussies restricted the hosts to just 274 on the second day as Holland (3-89) and uncapped Queensland quick Michael Neser (4-61) did the damage.
SCORECARD: India A v Australia A
Holland's 30-over stint at the bowling crease was justification of the faith shown in him by selectors and captain Mitchell Marsh after the left-armer was picked ahead of fellow spinners Ashton Agar and Mitchell Swepson for the first of two unofficial Tests ahead of the upcoming tour of the UAE.
The most obvious vacancies in an Australian Test side that has been decimated by suspension (Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft) and injury (Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins) are in the batting and fast bowling departments, but there's also a race in three to be Nathan Lyon's spin partner for a series that's certain to favour slow bowlers.
And Holland, who earned a shock Test recall earlier this year having been controversially overlooked for tours to India and Bangladesh last year, pushed his case further with a tireless spell on Monday.
"Mitch backed me in as the captain and I pretty much just sat at one end for most of the day," he said.
"It was good to get a lot of bowling under my belt so hopefully I can read the conditions well on day four and take some more wickets.
"Everyone knows there's opportunities at the moment at the next level. Everyone's worked really hard in the off season to push hard for this tour and do really well and see what happens after that."
While spin is expected to play a major role in the two Pakistan Tests, Australia are desperately seeking fast bowling options after star duo Hazlewood and Cummins were ruled out last month due to injury.
Spearhead Mitchell Starc is set to lead the pace attack and he could well be joined by 28-year-old Bulls quick Neser, an international rookie who made his ODI debut in June and impressed with four wickets on Monday.
In conditions that have favoured reverse swing more than spin so far in this match - India A quick Mohammed Siraj picked up 8-59 on day one - Neser got significant movement on the second day to claim four wickets, the highlight being a fast in-swinger that clattered into the stumps of the home side's skipper Shreyas Iyer.
Following a 39-wicket season in Queensland's Shield triumph last summer, Neser is battling fellow uncapped quicks Jhye Richardson and Chris Tremain (0-39 on Monday) for a spot on the plane to the Emirates.
"We spoke about it before the match that we just had to be patient and bowl in the right areas and bash a good length," Holland said.
"All the quicks did it and Michael was the one who came away with the wickets.
"I thought he bowled really well and he's been bowling well for a long period of time so it's good to see him get some rewards."
Australia A's batsmen will get a chance to push their Test claims on Tuesday when they resume on 1-42 in their second innings having lost NSW batsman Kurtis Patterson for 13 before stumps.
Australia A Tour of India
Australia A four-day squad: Mitchell Marsh (c), Alex Carey (vc), Ashton Agar, Brendan Doggett, Peter Handscomb, Travis Head, Jon Holland, Usman Khawaja, Michael Neser, Joel Paris, Kurtis Patterson, Matthew Renshaw, Mitch Swepson, Chris Tremain
Four-day fixtures in Vizag
2-5 September v India A
8-11 September v India A