Marsh Sheffield Shield 2021-22
Next Test audition unknown for dad-to-be Neser
Bulls quick Michael Neser will miss the next Shield game as he pushes for a long-awaited Test call-up
Andrew Ramsey in Adelaide
9 October 2021, 03:03 PM AEST
With only one Marsh Sheffield Shield match in the foreseeable future to advance his case for a long-promised Test call-up, Michael Neser must have hoped for more bowler-friendly conditions than those encountered at Karen Rolton Oval over recent days.
But the perennially pragmatic seamer also recognises that, amid a cricket schedule that is constantly redrawn by COVID-19 travel restrictions, there is one imminent event around which he can shape all of his other more ephemeral plans.
He and his partner, Olivia, are expecting their first child on October 21 and he will forego Queensland's next scheduled Shield match – against South Australia starting at Adelaide Oval on Friday – to ensure he's safely home in Brisbane for the birth.
At this stage, the 31-year-old is planning to play in the Marsh One Day Cup match against SA at Rolton Oval on Wednesday before flying back to Queensland.
When the Shield program was first released earlier this year, the Bulls were to begin their title defence against Tasmania in late September and play their second game in Perth from October 14-17 before returning to Brisbane for a meeting with SA from October 25.
But all that changed with the worsening COVID situation on the east coast in recent months, and Neser's plans were hastily altered in line with Cricket Australia's revised, albeit truncated schedule.
With the current men's domestic fixture not inked beyond round two of the Shield competition, Neser's push for an Ashes call-up and the Baggy Green Cap that has beckoned for three years currently rides on his sole outing for the Australia summer to date.
But despite returning 2-60 from almost 25 overs of thankless toil as Tasmania piled on 6(dec)-500 on the flat Rolton Oval deck, Neser believes his winter stint in UK county cricket has him well prepared for a Test debut should it come during the Ashes campaign.
"I've played a lot of cricket over the past six months, and I couldn't risk not making it back (to Brisbane) in time," Neser told cricket.com.au of his decision to miss next week's Shield match in Adelaide.
"I'm hoping to be in that (Ashes) squad obviously, but I can't look that far ahead especially the way things are at the moment.
"It's a bit frustrating, not knowing where and when we might be playing after next week but that's just that way it is.
"And I've got other things to focus on."
Given the likelihood of Australia selecting an expanded Ashes squad to cover COVID contingencies, Neser can justifiably expect to be among names for the first Test that starts at the Gabba on December 8.
That potential is increased by the reality the right-armer has been part of every Australia Test squad chosen since the 2019 Ashes series in the UK, having been first added to the Test set-up for the 2018 campaign against Pakistan in the UAE.
Australia have played 22 Tests and fielded a total of 25 players since that Pakistan series but Neser has yet to force his way into a starting XI, largely due to the surfeit of fellow fast bowlers available during that time.
He showed his effectiveness with the Dukes ball by claiming 23 wickets at an average of 16.78 in five first-class outings for Glamorgan, with his season-best 5-39 against Yorkshire at Cardiff including the wickets of Test-capped batters Adam Lyth, Gary Balance and Dom Bess.
However, on return to Shield cricket and the Kookaburra ball that will be used in the upcoming Vodafone Men's Ashes he found himself confronted by altogether different conditions in which his usual swing and seam weapons were rendered ineffectual by the placid batting surface.
As a result, Neser turned to the tricks he'd employed when the previous Shield summer began in equally benign conditions on Adelaide pitches during the early season 'hub', where he relied on regularly banging the ball into the surface and changes of pace with catchers deployed in front of the wicket.
"It's definitely a different set-up to what we're used to at the Gabba," he said after being the only front-line seamer to maintain an economy rate below three runs per over in the first-innings run glut at Rolton Oval.
"But we've got a lot of experience in these conditions, we've played a lot of cricket in the last 12 months in these conditions.
"It was quite flat, but (batting) can be tough work because it can be quite hard to score on if you bowl some good areas, being so slow and low.
"Once the ball gets a bit softer it felt like you could hold an end.
"There's also probably that period (around 30 overs) when the ball's quite hard still, and it's just starting to reverse.
"That's probably the most dangerous time (for batters)."
While Queensland were making halting inroads to Tasmania's daunting total this afternoon, Neser's fellow Australia aspirant Alex Carey was warming up for Wednesday's One-Day Cup game just a few hundred metres away.
On the adjoining Park 25 (No. 1) ground, Carey pummelled 82 from 35 balls including eight boundaries and six sixes as Glenelg chased down Sturt's target of 187 with seven balls to spare in the opening round of SA Premier Cricket's T20 competition today.
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