Australia A Tour of England - Men's
Ashes hopefuls make serious statements
Travis Head and Sam Curran shine with unbeaten hundred and six-wicket haul respectively in impressive Test auditions
Sam Ferris in Canterbury
16 July 2019, 10:31 AM AEST
Two Ashes hopefuls on opposing teams might well have cemented their place for next month's highly-anticipated Test series after dominant performances over the first two days in Canterbury.
Travis Head scored an unbeaten 139 in the Australian XI's first innings total of 397 which promised to be a lot more if it wasn't for Lions left-arm seamer Sam Curran, who skittled the visitors with six wickets on the morning of day two.
The Australians lost 6-17 with Curran bagging 6-95 as Head watched on powerless, adding only nine runs to his overnight score.
Selectors from both Australia and England were watching the drama unfold in person and may well have pencilled Head and Curran into their respective Ashes squads.
Head's hundred was his second on tour after the 138 he blazed in the final one-day match in Bristol, while he has made a start in all but one innings.
The left-armer celebrated his hundred on Sunday with a discrete fist pump before removing his helmet and raising his arms aloft to soak in the warm applause from the scattered crowd and his teammates.
But he says he was more pleased about converting a start into triple-figures and putting his team in a strong position than he was about possibly securing an Ashes spot.
"I haven't converted many opportunities in the past so it's nice when I get an opportunity to go on and get a hundred and do well for the team," said Head, who now has nine first-class centuries to 41 fifties in 88 first-class matches.
"I'm just going out there and trying to compete as much as I can and trying to perform.
"I was disappointed I missed out on the opportunity last week to go on and get a big score (against Sussex where he was out for 34). I got a start and felt I was batting really well in the nets and in the game last week in Arundel.
"So it was about staying relaxed the last couple of days and not trying to do too much in the nets and knowing I was playing well and going out and trying to execute as best I could.
"Yesterday and today I was able to do that for a long period of time. I was pleased with the way I went about the whole innings."
If Head and fellow century-maker Matt Wade owned day one, day two belonged to Curran.
Operating from round the wicket, Curran took 5-11 in 32 minutes in the rapid collapse.
The 21-year-old made his Test debut last summer, taking important wickets and scoring vital runs as an emerging allrounder to complement the handful of world-class allrounders already occupying England's Test XI.
His older brother Tom played his two Tests against Australia in the 2017-18 Ashes and now Sam is hoping to emulate him this northern summer.
"I'd be lying if I'm not," Curran told cricket.com.au when asked if he's thought about playing in the Ashes. "It's obviously very exciting, everyone wants to play in an Ashes series.
"Fingers crossed I'm in the squad for that.
"My brother played last summer Down Under and said it was really enjoyable.
"It's a great rivalry and something I would love to be involved with but if I'm not, I'm not. But if I am it will be really exciting."
Curran says it will be of "huge" importance for English cricket to carry on the momentum that was generated by the epic World Cup triumph at Lord's on Sunday.
Key members of England's Test side, such as Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler, stood up in the final against New Zealand and Curran hopes their winning ways can be transferred to the Test specialists in the Ashes.
"The one-day boys had a great final yesterday. It was amazing to watch," he said.
"There's a lot of those one-day guys that are in the Test team so I think they'll be hugely high on confidence and hopefully they can rub onto the other players that are selected.
"I'm really looking forward to hopefully being around the guys and just learning from the guys who have played on the biggest stage and these high-pressure situations."
Australia A tour of the UK
Get live scores and all the latest news from Australia A's tour of the UK on cricket.com.au and the CA Live app
Australia A one-day squad: Travis Head (c), Matthew Wade, Will Pucovski, Peter Handscomb, Mitch Marsh (vc), D'Arcy Short, Kurtis Patterson, Ashton Agar, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Josh Hazlewood (vc), Sean Abbott, Andrew Tye
Australia A four-day squad: Tim Paine (c), Marcus Harris, Kurtis Patterson, Will Pucovski, Travis Head (vc), Peter Handscomb, Matthew Wade, Mitch Marsh, Michael Neser, Jon Holland, James Pattinson, Jackson Bird, Josh Hazlewood (vc), Chris Tremain
July 13-16: Australian XI v England Lions, Canterbury
July 23-26: Australia v Australia A, Hampshire