Australia Tour of England - Men's
Bancroft impresses in final Ashes audition
Cameron Bancroft joins David Warner as the only batters to pass 50 as the Graeme Hick XII wrap up a five-wicket win on day three of the all-Australian match
Andrew Ramsey at the Rose Bowl
26 July 2019, 12:00 PM AEST
Cameron Bancroft pitched his perfectly timed submission for inclusion in Australia's Ashes squad to be named tomorrow by delivering a stand-out, unbeaten 93 on what proved the final day of the sole Test series warm-up fixture.
Bancroft remained unconquered having faced 194 balls as the Graeme Hick XII recorded a five-wicket win over fellow coach Brad Haddin's team in the long-anticipated practice game that yielded a constant flow of wickets but not so many selectorial answers.
Given the ascendancy of bowlers for most of the two and a half days played, and the comparative contributions from other batters on both teams, Bancroft's innings was as noteworthy as it was timely.
Only his former Test opening partner David Warner was able to reach 50 in the face of bowler-friendly conditions in this game, and Bancroft would surely have reached a century if Tim Paine had not scored the winning runs before he had chance to reach the milestone.
But even without celebrating the milestone, Bancroft's achievement stood head and shoulders above all other batters.
Under usual operating protocols, Thursday's victory target of 121 with eight wickets of Test-calibre batting available to get them at the resumption of play would not have appeared overly daunting.
But as the clatter of wickets and the nature of the Rose Bowl pitch underscored during the past two days, this has been anything but a regulation fixture.
The gradual deforestation of the live grass that covered the pitch on day one had seen scores increase incrementally across the preceding six sessions.
But so difficult has scoring proved against the Test-standard bowling on show in the intra-squad game, even with in-form pair Bancroft and Matthew Wade in occupation at play's start it loomed as a tall order.
The dismissal of Wade – caught by a diving Alex Carey having squeezed a delivery form Jon Holland into his pad – for a hard-fought seven from 33 balls rendered that assignment more challenging.
But while Bancroft remained at the crease, the Hick XII seemed to have the task in hand.
Like Marnus Labuschagne on the opening day, Bancroft showed the benefit of past months spent negotiating the Dukes-brand red ball in British conditions while traversing the local county circuit.
The 26-year-old currently sits 17th on the Division Two batting rankings with 726 runs from 17 innings for Durham at an average of 45.38 with two centuries and a highest score of 158.
The 93 he scored overnight won't rank among his most memorable, but it will likely sit among his most timely if his name is among the 17 in the Ashes squad to be announced in Southampton on Friday evening (AEST).
Against a four-pronged seam attack of Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and Peter Siddle and the left-arm spin of Holland, Bancroft batted for significantly longer than rival batter in the game.
Not only did he defy and new and old ball, he wore several body blows including a clatter to helmet during Starc's first over of the day, and another painful strike to the groin having suffered a similar indignity on day one.
He began the day unbeaten on 25 from 47 balls faced on Wednesday evening, and spent much of the morning session closing in on a patient and deserved half-century which he reached shortly before lunch.
Bancroft was involved in a 29-run fourth-wicket stand with Peter Handscomb (13 from 42 balls) and then a more sprightly 54-run union with allrounder Mitchell Marsh (23 from 39 balls) as the victory target inched closer.
Handscomb fell in a manner that has become familiar on a pitch that has offered seam movement and variable bounce throughout.
The right-hander was pinned on the crease by Hazlewood, to give the Test quick his second wicket of the game.
As he had done in the final hour of the opening day, Marsh appeared as comfortable as any player and scored at a rate that belied the demons in the surface, and the quality of the bowlers.
Marsh's 29 in the first innings came from just 33 deliveries, and while his effort today was a little more circumspect he still found the boundary on four occasions as the large first stride he takes into the ball helped to negate the disconcerting movement.
He eventually fell to Starc, who had undergone scans on his sore right knee overnight but looked a far more threatening proposition this afternoon when he began bowling around the wicket with the old ball.
Justin Langer addresses the entire Australian touring party after the intra-squad match in Southampton concludes #Ashes pic.twitter.com/UpofMLUQoI— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) July 25, 2019
The left-armer not only struck Test skipper Tim Paine a frightening blow on the left hand from the first ball that Paine faced, he also sent Bancroft collapsing onto the pitch in a cloud of dust courtesy of a trademark yorker speared at the opener's toes.
But it was Bancroft who had the final laugh and, after more than a year of anxious and introspective waiting, now has less than 24 hours before knowing if his ambition to return to the Test-fold has been realised.
Hick XII: Joe Burns, Cameron Bancroft, Steve Smith, Peter Handscomb, Matthew Wade, Mitchell Marsh, Tim Paine (c, wk), Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Jackson Bird, Chris Tremain, Nathan Lyon
Haddin XII: David Warner, Marcus Harris, Kurtis Patterson, Travis Head (c), Marnus Labuschagne, Will Pucovski, Alex Carey (wk), Pat Cummins, Mitch Starc, Peter Siddle, Josh Hazlewood, Jon Holland.
2019 Qantas Ashes Tour of England
First Test: Edgbaston, August 1-5
Tour match: Australians v Worcestershire, August 7-9
Second Test: Lord's, August 14-18
Third Test: Headingley, August 22-26
Tour match: Australians v Derbyshire, August 29-31
Fourth Test: Old Trafford, September 4-8
Fifth Test: The Oval, September 12-16