Australia’s potential Test top three fly to Bangladesh hoping for an extended run in the middle during the two-day warm-up match after wickets fell thick and fast on the final day of the Darwin intra-squad practice.
While many of the required preparatory boxes were ticked, the contributions of openers David Warner and Matt Renshaw, and possible No.3 Usman Khawaja could be cause for concern ahead of a two-Test series in which big first-innings runs are the stated order of the day.
On the final day of the Steve Smith XI v David Warner XI at Darwin’s Marrara Oval, many of the formalities that had characterised this clash as a little more serious than similar intra-squad games of the past were done away with, as the scorecard becoming increasingly immaterial and time in the middle for the 14-man touring party rightly became the most important factor in proceedings.
As such, Jon Holland swapped teams and opened the bowling to devastating effect for the Smith XI, claiming four wickets in 11 balls as Hilton Cartwright (0), Adam Zampa (0), Peter Handscomb (2) and Jake Weatherald (0) all came and went in rapid succession.
Holland was overlooked for the Test tour – a decision that will no doubt spark further debate after this display – but Bangladesh will play at least one left-arm orthodox spinner in Shakib Al Hasan, so the Victorian’s presence in this match has at least prepared the Australians for the highly-rated allrounder.
In fact, Holland swapped back to his original team – the Warner XI – to send down two more overs before lunch, and claimed a fifth wicket of the morning when Marcus Stoinis picked out Pat Cummins at long-off.
If the National Selection Panel were feeling sheepish about the omission of Holland for Bangladesh, they were rescued by an excellent performance from the man preferred in his place; fellow left-arm tweaker Ashton Agar claimed 4-55 in 12 overs, figures that were blown out considerably at the tail-end of the match by some lusty hitting from Mitch Swepson and Tom Andrews.
In between, on a pitch that was showed considerable wear and tear (some of which had been manufactured by groundstaff at the behest of the Australians), Nathan Lyon (2-26 off 10) enjoyed a productive spell, claiming the wickets of Renshaw, caught at first slip by Jackson Bird for 21, and Matthew Wade, well caught by Cartwright in close for one.
Paceman Bird didn’t bowl in the first innings due to a tight hip flexor so the Tasmanian was another to turn out for both teams this morning, and he got through a strong spell from the Abala Rd End, claiming the wicket of Khawaja (1 from 41 balls) caught and bowled.
After Agar’s middle-order inroads, it was left to Adam Zampa to close out the contest, the leg-spinner taking two late wickets to complete a day that saw 15 wickets fall for just 143 runs.
The early wickets of Renshaw and Khawaja, as well as the absence of Warner – who sat out of the action today after retiring hurt from a bouncer blow to the neck yesterday – meant the potential top three for the first Test in Dhaka only tasted limited time at the crease throughout this week-long camp.
That leaves the trio with a maximum of two more opportunities to spend some time in the middle, with the Australians set to play a two-day warm-up match from August 22.
Australia Squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Ashton Agar, Jackson Bird, Hilton Cartwright, Pat Cummins, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Glenn Maxwell, Matthew Renshaw, Mitchell Swepson, Matthew Wade.