As Peter Handscomb moved into pole position for a Test debut next week, two Test incumbents and a pair of hopefuls failed to spend any quality time in the middle on day two of the Sheffield Shield clash in Sydney.
At stumps, NSW Blues are 2-95, trailing Victoria by 415 after Handscomb posted 215 - his maiden first-class double-century – with the Bushrangers 6-510 declared.
Daniel Hughes (42) and Kurtis Patterson (28) are the not out batsmen.
While Handscomb made the most of his opportunity, Matthew Wade (6) and Glenn Maxwell (10) fell cheaply on a placid SCG pitch as they aimed to push for a Test recall.
Wade was out driving a wide Trent Copeland half-volley to Nic Maddinson at short cover after being regularly beaten by bustling Blues fast bowler Doug Bollinger.
Maxwell was uncharacteristically quiet in his 32-ball knock. The dynamic allrounder hit only one boundary – an inside edge past his stumps and Blues wicketkeeper Peter Nevill before he was caught behind next ball off the NSW left-armer.
The Victorian duo weren’t the only players to miss out on Friday, with Test captain Steve Smith and his deputy David Warner unable to capitalise on the perfect batting conditions.
After spending 160 overs in the field, Warner had to back up and face the new ball in the final session.
The Australia vice-captain edged his second ball over the slips for four but found the middle of the bat 10 balls later when he sent Scott Boland to the point boundary.
Boland would have his revenge in his next over when Warner edged his glide to third man to the safe hands of Dan Christian at first slip in similar fashion to his first innings dismissal in Perth against the Proteas.
Smith hit only one boundary in his 17-ball stay in the middle before he was out to a wild drive outside off stump with Christian taking a sharp catch at first slip.
While neither Smith’s nor Warner’s spots are in jeopardy, there’s no doubt the pair would have liked more time at the crease ahead of next Thursday’s dead-rubber against South Africa at the Adelaide Oval.
The day started well for the hosts when overnight century-maker Travis Dean was bowled by Bollinger from the third ball of the day.
It started a mini-comeback by Blues, who took 3-42 before Cameron White (75no) and Handscomb combined for a 142-run sixth wicket stand.
Handscomb batted for almost eight hours and 356 balls, but as tea approached the right-hander missed a looping leg-spinner by Smith and was stumped for his highest score for the Bushrangers.
Veteran White believes the time is right for Handscomb to chosen for Test cricket.
"The selectors always talk about choosing in form player, he is in form and not (just for) this series (against South Africa) they've got on," White said.
"There's one coming up against India and he showed against our (Australia's) two best spinners that he's got that game covered as well.
"He is a very skillful player off the front or back foot, playing first-class cricket you get tested out.
"He's played a few seasons now, teams have tried a few different things, he's ridden that wave and his game is in a place that he is comfortable with and he can score runs in all conditions."
The first two days in Sydney have been tough for Test off-spinner Nathan Lyon, who finished with figures of 0-141 from 39 overs, and has now gone 90 overs without a first-class wicket.
After the quick dismissals of Smith and Warner, Hughes and Patterson saw out the day with a 73-run stand with plenty of batting to do on Saturday.
NSW XI: David Warner, Ed Cowan, Steve Smith (c), Kurtis Patterson, Nic Maddinson, Moises Henriques, Peter Nevill (wk), Steve O’Keefe, Trent Copeland, Nathan Lyon, Doug Bollinger
Victoria XI: Marcus Harris, Travis Dean, Marcus Stoinis, Peter Handscomb, Matthew Wade (c,wk), Glenn Maxwell, Cameron White, Dan Christian, Scott Boland, Chris Tremain, Jon Holland
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