Australia v South Africa Tests
Handscomb in prime position for Test debut
Double-century puts Victorian firmly in the box seat to earn a Baggy Green for the third Test
Sam Ferris at the SCG, Sydney
18 November 2016, 06:10 PM AEST
A maiden first-class double-century has put Victoria batsman Peter Handscomb in prime position to make his Test debut at the Adelaide Oval next Thursday.
Handscomb posted an 215 for the Commonwealth Bank Bushrangers in their Sheffield Shield clash against NSW Blues at the SCG, and in doing so has become the frontrunner to feature in a new-look batting line-up in Adelaide.
In the wake of Australia’s fifth consecutive Test loss, Bupa Support Team Head Coach Darren Lehmann said there will be changes to the fragile batting order that has regularly collapsed during the horror streak.
Having scored just the third double-hundred for Victoria in the past decade, Handscomb is now in the box seat to make his Test debut in one of the likely two vacant middle-order positions.
— cricket.com.au (@CricketAus) November 18, 2016
While he might not be a household name just yet, Handscomb has been steadily climbing up the ranks of Australian cricket.
In 2009, the right-hander played four matches for the Australia Under-19s team against Sri Lanka’s Under-19s in Darwin.
He might not have set the house on fire with scores 5, 14, 38 and 9, the then 18-year-old played alongside future limited-overs internationals Adam Zampa, Nic Maddinson and Sean Abbott.
Two years later Handscomb made his first-class debut for Victoria, scoring 71 and 2 at first-drop behind Chris Rogers and Rob Quiney against Queensland at the Gabba.
— Aaron Finch (@AaronFinch5) November 18, 2016
He played seven matches in his debut season and posted his maiden first-class century in just his third match – 113 against South Australia in Adelaide.
In the following two seasons Handscomb played 18 Shield matches for Victoria but couldn’t add to the lone century he scored in his first year, frustratingly making eight half-centuries with a top score of 94.
But his breakthrough season came in 2014-15, ending his century drought with three hundreds, averaging 53.91 and scoring 48 in Victoria’s Shield final win over Western Australia in Hobart.
Handscomb spent the winter of 2015 in India with Australia A, where he posted scores of 91, 0 and 0, and in England with county club Gloucestershire, averaging 40.27 in seven fist-class matches with four half-centuries.
It was while he was in Bristol that the St Kilda product was drafted into Australia’s one-day squad to face England, further recognition of his ability with the bat and his promise as a future star.
Handscomb posted three more centuries last summer in another successful Shield season for the Bushrangers, before taking his next big step earlier this year when he was named Australia A captain against India A and South Africa A in Queensland.
Leadership sat well with the young skipper, who was named man of the match against India A in Brisbane and then again against South Africa A for his 137 to finish his three-match tenure undefeated.
On Thursday, with a Test spot on the line and selector Mark Waugh in the stands, Handscomb grabbed the opportunity with both hands by scoring 110 not out on day one before adding another 115 on Friday.
His knock lasted almost eight hours, which is more than Australia’s total time spent at the crease during both innings of the second Test in Hobart combined.
Australia skipper Steve Smith – the bowler who ended Handscomb’s masterful innings – has called for his players to show more fight, adaptability and resilience.
Having succeeded in three continents in the past two years, led Australia A to victory and shown the ability to bat long periods of time against a quality attack, Handscomb appears to have done everything his potential new captain has asked.
“I’d love to take the opportunity and get out there and give it a crack at the next level,” Handscomb said yesterday.
“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.”
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