JLT Sheffield Shield 2017-18
In-form Renshaw pursues county deal
Queensland opener hoping to further his credentials against Dukes ball with an eye to 2019 Ashes
10 March 2018, 12:27 PM AEST
Opener Matthew Renshaw is hopeful of signing a deal to play English county cricket this year as he looks to force his way back into Australia's Test side.
With Cameron Bancroft far from ensconced as David Warner’s opening partner, the man he replaced at the top of the order four months ago has responded to his axing with a career-best run of form in domestic cricket.
Having conquered the Dukes ball in Australia with three consecutive hundreds in the JLT Sheffield Shield in recent weeks, Renshaw is shopping himself around to county sides in the UK in the hope of earning a contract for the upcoming northern summer.
While the 21-year-old's immediate focus is a Shield title with Queensland later this month, his ultimate goal is to regain his Test spot with the 2019 Ashes tour just 18 months away.
"I'm looking to play county cricket," Renshaw told cricket.com.au of his plans for the Australian winter. "I just haven't been signed by anyone yet.
"Hopefully I get the opportunity to play county cricket so I can face the Dukes ball in England and see what the difference is.
"We've been putting some feelers out there and seeing what's coming. Nothing's come up yet, but hopefully if the opportunity does come up, I can work on my game a bit more.
"I'd just be really excited to take that opportunity if it comes. It'd just keep my cricket ticking over in the winter ahead of another Shield season, if I'm not playing at a higher level."
After a horror start to the Australian summer that saw him lose form and drop out of the Test side ahead of the Ashes, Renshaw has roared back to his best with centuries in each of his past three Shield games.
His unbeaten 143 against Western Australia on Friday followed scores of 170 and 112 last month and has seen him become the first Queensland batsman since Matthew Hayden in 1993-94 to score a hundred in three consecutive Shield matches in a season.
It's a welcome relief following the crushing low of the start of the season, when Bancroft came from the clouds to replace him at the top of the order in the Ashes.
"I wasn't putting too much pressure on myself while I was batting, but obviously off the field it was quite tough," he said. "There was an Ashes series coming up and then I was sitting on the sidelines watching it.
"I'm enjoying my cricket and enjoying the group around me. There's a lot of good vibes at the moment.
"I'm getting the starts and making sure that when I'm in, I go quite big."
While county sides have already filled most of the limited spots available to international players for this year, the length of the County Championship – which starts in mid-April and concludes at the end of September – means teams are often on the lookout for replacement players throughout the season when injuries and international selections arise.
And the fact Renshaw holds a British passport having been born in the UK would alleviate some visa concerns that often accompany foreign players, particularly when they're signed at short notice.
While the Dukes ball, introduced for the second half of the Shield season in an effort to improve the technique of Australian batters against the moving ball, has seen the total runs scored in the Shield drop since Christmas, it remains a different proposition on the greener pitches of the UK.
But the fact that Renshaw has found form in bowler-friendly conditions in recent weeks is a positive sign for him ahead of Australia's Ashes tour next year, when they'll be aiming for their first series win in the UK since 2001.
"I really enjoy it," Renshaw said of the Dukes ball. "It stays harder for longer so it keeps the bowlers interested and it swings a little bit more than the Kookaburra.
"I don't know if it's because of the Dukes or because of all the work I've been doing, but I'm really enjoying batting at the moment."