As national selector Mark Waugh watched on from the stands, a pair of Victorian batsmen put their hand up for Test selection on day one of the Sheffield Shield clash at the SCG.
Travis Dean (134no) and Peter Handscomb (110no) combined for an unbeaten 225-run stand as the Commonwealth Bank Bushrangers finished day one against the NSW Blues on 2-292.
The duo batted for 383 balls and 242 minutes in glorious Sydney sunshine, defying an international-calibre attack to throw their names in the ring for an Australia call-up.
Handscomb has now peeled off scores of 112, 61*, 4, 14, 137, 87, 24, 78, 10, 60 and 110* from his past 11 first-class innings, dating back to his man-of-the-match performance in last summer's Shield final
One of the centuries in that run came in front of Waugh when captaining Australia A earlier this year, but the 25-year-old said he was trying not to think too much about the fact a Test spot is up for grabs.
"I've been lucky enough to make a hundred in front of him before so hopefully he’s watched a little bit now," Handscomb said of Waugh after play.
"If (a call-up) happens I feel pretty good. I’d love to take the opportunity and get out there and give it a crack at the next level.
"But having never been there I can’t tell you whether I’ll be any good or not, but I’d love to give it a crack.
"I'm trying not to think about it. My job in these four days is to win the game for Victoria and make sure I do everything I can for Victoria.
"If anything else happens then happy days, but if it doesn’t it’s perfectly fine.
"You’ve just got to accept that (selection speculation) is part of it. There’s always going to be a bit of media around; accept what they’re saying and move on and concentrate on your own game."
Following Australia’s dire batting performance in the first two Tests of the summer, which has seen the side lose 10-88, 10-85 and 8-32 along with the Commonwealth Bank Test Series to South Africa, changes have been promised by head coach Darren Lehmann.
Up to three batting spots could be up for grabs, with Joe Burns, Adam Voges and Callum Ferguson scoring seven runs between them in Hobart’s second Test capitulation.
Voges was struck in the head today and has been ruled out of the remainder of Western Australia’s Shield clash with Tasmania, while Burns managed only four before being caught down the leg-side, just like he was in the second innings on Tuesday.
Australia captain Steve Smith had called for resilience and for his players to show some fight, and that’s just what Dean and Handscomb did the SCG on Thursday.
Dean, a diminutive right-hander, withstood the opening tirade of former Test quicks Doug Bollinger (0-33) and Trent Copeland (1-51) before taking on spin twins Stephen O’Keefe (1-65) and Nathan Lyon (0-88).
He was the first to raise triple figures, ending a lean run of form that saw him score only 433 runs at 24.06 in his past 10 first-class matches.
While Dean was in something of a drought before today, Handscomb came into the match averaging 65.22 in his past 10 first-class innings with two centuries.
He hit consecutive fours off Lyon today to move to 99 before gliding one to the left of short third man to bring up his ninth first-class century from 183 balls.
While Dean’s knock was faultless, Handsomb was dropped on 14 and then again on 77 at first slip off the bowling of Copeland.
With Queensland pair Usman Khawaja (106) and 20-year-old Matthew Renshaw (108) each scoring centuries, Waugh and the new-look selection panel will have plenty to think about before announcing third Test squad on Sunday in Adelaide.
Incumbent Test spinner Lyon went wicketless in his 27 overs, while O’Keefe claimed the scalp of allrounder Marcus Stoinis for 11, caught by Smith at first slip.
Wicketkeeper Peter Nevill reeled in a thick edge at full-stretch to his left to dismiss Bushrangers opener Marcus Harris for 28 and give Copeland his sole wicket of the day in the 21st over.
It proved a good toss to win by Victoria skipper Matthew Wade, with the Bushrangers failing to lose a wicket from the final over before lunch until stumps.
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
International cricket is more affordable than ever this summer, with adult tickets from $30, kids from $10 and family packages from $65 across every day of international cricket. Price for purchase at match. Transaction fee from $6.95 applies to online and other purchases. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.