Marsh Sheffield Shield 2019-20
Big guns eye Shield bragging rights in early exchanges
Mitchell Starc returns to action on Thursday in the Marsh Sheffield Shield with the domestic battle dominating thoughts ahead of looming internationals
8 October 2019, 02:38 PM AEST
Mitchell Starc is desperate to get out of the nets and back in the middle as he faces a fight for his Test spot at home for the first time in four years.
Starc will play his first match of the home summer in the opening round of the Marsh Sheffield Shield on Thursday, when NSW face Queensland at the Gabba.
With powerful line-ups for both sides, it looms as a captivating battle with plenty of spots up for grabs throughout the Australian Test line-up ahead of the opening Domain Test against Pakistan at the Gabba on November 21.
But before that, Australia will face Sri Lanka and Pakistan in back-to-back three-match Gillette T20 International series from October 27.
NSW batters David Warner and Steve Smith and Queensland quartet Joe Burns, Matthew Renshaw, Usman Khawaja and Marnus Labuschagne will all be looking for red-ball touch in the Shield opener.
While Smith and Labuschagne are assured of spots in the Test XI after starring on the Ashes tour, Warner and Khawaja have plenty to prove back on home soil.
Warner was given the backing of Test captain Tim Paine, and Starc said the opener was full of confidence in the nets.
"It's a huge opportunity for him to start the Shield season pretty strong," Starc said today.
"He looked pretty positive (in the nets), whether that's refreshing mentally, getting a little bit of a break away from training for a week or two, but he looked great."
Khawaja, the Queensland captain, reiterated his willingness to bat anywhere in an Australian team after he was dropped as No.3 during the Ashes.
"I'll take the wins before anything, as long as I'm contributing towards Queensland wins," Khawaja said in Brisbane today.
"No matter what runs I'm getting, no matter what else is happening, whether it's on the field taking catches, captaincy, batting – hopefully I am scoring runs while doing it at the top of the order – but for me it's about trying to get as many wins for Queensland as possible."
Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins have been held back from the opening round of the Shield after a big winter and appear to be certainties for Australia's Test selection, while James Pattinson will also return for Victoria in the Sheffield Shield this week.
Jhye Richardson is continuing his return from a shoulder injury, while Peter Siddle is also managing a hip flexor issue that will rule him out of the start of the Shield.
But after playing just one Ashes Test, Starc is keen to get back in the middle for NSW.
He plans on making himself available for as many Shield matches as he can before the Test matches start, with Starc, Smith and Warner only missing the one match on national T20 duty.
"I've had plenty of time in the nets in the past three months, so I am trying to get out in the middle as much as I can," Starc said.
"This week is a great opportunity to get out in the middle and hopefully take some wickets.
"That (Test selection) is the furthest thing from my mind."
Starc also insisted he did not have a point to prove and that playing only the one Test in Manchester hadn't sparked anything different inside him.
The 29-year-old had been a mainstay of the Australian side since 2015 and has only missed four home Tests since then through injury.
But for the first time since 2014-15, he now faces a fight to be named against Pakistan and then later New Zealand.
"Right from the start (of the away Ashes) we knew it was a squad mentality and they were going to look at conditions for each Test match," Starc said.
"The way they saw the make-up of the team, it was just for Manchester.
"We had six fast bowlers at one time ready to go. Hopefully we're all fit for the summer and fighting for positions again."
Home conditions should work in his favour at least.
Starc remains one of the quickest bowlers in the world and the Gabba pitch is expected to suit him for the first Test.
"The wickets throughout the summer in general are a little bit harder and quicker," Starc said.
"Extra air speed comes into it a bit more than it does in the UK.
"Hopefully I've still got a bit of that up my sleeve and can come into the fold throughout the summer."
NSW v Queensland
at the Gabba, October 10-13, 11.00am AEDT (10am local)
NSW squad: Peter Nevill (c), Sean Abbott, Nick Bertus, Harry Conway, Trent Copeland, Liam Hatcher, Moises Henriques, Daniel Hughes, Nick Larkin, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, David Warner.
Queensland squad: Usman Khawaja (c), Joe Burns, Cameron Gannon, Sam Heazlett, Charlie Hemphrey, Marnus Labuschagne, Michael Neser, James Peirson, Matthew Renshaw, Billy Stanlake, Mark Steketee, Mitch Swepson.
As reported by cricket.com.au last week, Test stars Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon will sit out the Blues' contest against the Bulls.
Nathan Lyon is managing an ankle concern but neither Cummins nor Hazlewood have any current injury concerns, but rather are being managed through the early part of the summer after both shouldered a heavy workload during the recent Ashes campaign.