The Australians have unleashed themselves upon the County Championship with nine current and former international players appearing in the competition.
While Marnus Labuschagne’s form has been the talking point from the opening rounds, many other Australians are taking on the English. Its been a slow start for the batsmen, but the Australian bowlers have been flying the Aussie flag high.
The Inner Sanctum takes you through all the Australian action from the opening six rounds of the County Championship.
Cameron Bancroft (Durham) – 1 match, 39 runs
Bancroft has been a part of a media circus in the last week since speaking on the sandpaper saga. Arriving late into the UK, Bancroft has only played one match to this point. In a match against Derbyshire, Bancroft opened the batting and looked good for his extended stay at the crease.
Bancroft faced 137 balls for his 39 runs in a slow innings that has become characteristic with his batting. There is still plenty of time for Bancroft to score heavily and put his case forward for an Australian recall.
Billy Stanlake (Derbyshire) – 1 match, 2 wickets
Stanlake’s only match came against the powerhouse that is Essex. With a line-up that includes former internationals Alistair Cook and Tom Westley and current international Dan Lawrence, Stanlake was always going to struggle. Unfortunately, it was a difficult day for Stanlake in which Essex went after the Derbyshire bowlers.
17 overs for 2-91 was the end figures for Stanlake, going at more than five an over. While these figures are obviously below par, Stanlake’s height and pace is something not often seen in county cricket. He will no doubt have good days throughout the season.
Peter Siddle (Essex) – 4 matches, 10 wickets
Siddle is without a doubt, in the twilight of his career. Having now announced his retirement from international cricket and moving from Victoria to Tasmania. It is exciting to watch how Siddle will leave the game to which he has given so much. After having starred for the county in 2019, he has returned to Essex for the 2021 season.
It was a slow start for Siddle, only taking four wickets from his first three matches. His bowling figures have been up and down, starting with 3-52 (18 overs) and 0-41 (14 overs) against Warwickshire. Against Worcestershire, it was a wicketless affair 0-71 (25 overs) and 0-17 (three overs) in a disappointing performance.
Against Nottinghamshire, it was another difficult one, 1-72 (22 overs). It was the final match against Warwickshire where we saw the old Siddle again, going 6-38 (21 overs). It was a beautiful performance on a green seaming wicket.
Marnus Labuschagne (Glamorgan) – 4 matches, 44 runs, 2 wickets
It has been a tough start to the county season for the world’s number 3 test batsman. On the difficult seaming pitches of April and May, his technique does not seem to be stacking up. Playing for the Wales-based county of Glamorgan, Marnus is a critical pillar in an otherwise inexperienced line-up.
2021 has been the complete opposite from the 2019 county season, which saw Labuschagne go from an outer member of the Australian squad to the permanent number 3. While Labuschagne has had a slow start to the season, the Glamorgan coach Matthew Maynard has backed Labuschagne.
Matthew Maynard spoke to BBC Sport on Labuschagne’s start.
“Marnus is a very resilient player, you don’t get to number three in the world easily,” he said.
“He has had a couple of decent balls and a dubious lbw decision in this game. Those things happen, and I’m sure Marnus will score plenty of runs for us, not just this season, but in seasons to come.”
The 45-year-old Darren Stevens has been the thorn in Labuschagne’s side, having gotten out to him twice, as well as smashing Labuschagne’s bowling on his way to 190. Marnus has not managed a score above 12 at this point, including a duck. Scores of 11, 12, 10, 0, 11 and 0 not out indicate how Labuschagne’s season has gone so far.
While Marnus may be having a lousy trot of form, there is no doubt he has the class to improve and will find a way to score more runs in the future.
Michael Neser (Glamorgan) – 3 matches, 41 runs, 12 wickets.
Australia’s cult hero bowler has begun the county season in the opposite fashion to his Queensland and Glamorgan teammate. Neser has shown he is a class above the county game, his high pace and huge swing with the duke’s ball a problem for all batsman.
After showing this much skill, questions have to be asked about how far away Neser could be from a test berth. With Cricket Australia looking towards a rotational policy for the bowlers, we will likely see Neser gain a baggy green this summer.
Neser has come up against Lancashire, Yorkshire, and Kent in the opening stages of the season. Some of the prize scalps amongst Neser’s wicket list include former England players Adam Lyth, Gary Ballance and Dom Bess.
His figures have been 2-50 (22 overs) against Lancashire, 5-39 (15 overs) against Yorkshire. as well as 4-67 (20 overs) in the 1st innings and 1-28 (4 overs) in the second innings against Kent.
Neser has been a standout in terms of the Australians with many matches still to come.
Dan Worrall (Gloucestershire) – 4 matches, 14 wickets
Worrall is almost the forgotten Australian bowler, having played three ODI matches for his country. It is however with South Australia where Worrall does his best work, and with Chad Sayers retirement at the end of the 2020/21 season, Worrall will be leading that attack in the upcoming season.
Starting against Hampshire, Worral took 4-75 (31 overs), including the vital wicket of James Vince. Next up was Leicestershire, taking 5-79 (34.1 overs), including the wicket of countryman Marcus Harris and 1-67 (16 overs) in the second innings.
Lords was the next trip against Peter Handscomb’s Middlesex, only taking one wicket in the match with figures of 0-47 (17 overs) and 1-15 (9.1 overs) in a disappointing performance. The most recent match was against Somerset, taking 3-52 (20.3 overs) in the only bowling innings.
It has been a solid start to the season for the South Australian, his ability to swing the ball is unrivalled in Australia and has been a huge positive for Gloucestershire.
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Peter Handscomb (Middlesex) – 5 matches, 130 runs
Peter Handscomb has one of the best jobs in world cricket, club captain of the prestigious Middlesex based out of Lords. While it may be one of the best jobs in the world, it isn’t easy when the runs are not flowing. It has been a languid start for Handscomb who’s back foot technique has been challenged against the moving duke’s ball.
The bad form started with a duck (0) against Surrey. Against Somerset, he managed to get to 17 before being run out and got another duck in the second innings. It was another lean match against Gloucestershire with scores of 10 and four.
Coming against the bowling powerhouse of Hampshire, Handscomb struggled again with another duck, of the golden variety this time, and a quicker 24 from 12 balls in the second innings.
In the most recent match against Surrey, Handscomb has seemed to gain some form back. While he made only five in the first innings, the second innings brought 70 from only 94 balls in what was hopefully a swing of fortune. Handscomb is undoubtedly skilled enough to continue this good form throughout the English Summer.
Marcus Harris (Lecistershire) – 4 matches, 221 runs
The only Australian batsman to score a century in the championship so far, Marcus Harris is plying his trade for Leicestershire. He is the incumbent opening batsman for Australia, having played the last test against India. Having missed the first two matches of the season due to quarantining, Harris is now set at the top of the order.
Harris began the season with 19 and seven against the bowling of Somerset. Interestingly he was then moved down to number 3 to accommodate Sam Evans moving to the opening position. It was a move that paid off, with Harris making 62 along with Evans 102. In the second innings, Harris made 23.
It was against Surrey where Harris managed to show his class, a beautiful century before being out LBW to Amar Verdi. In his most recent match, Harris only managed scores of two and seven, not out. He will need to continue these run-scoring ways to stay in the Australian side, with many predicting that Will Pucovski will overtake him once again for an Ashes birth.
Travis Head (Sussex) – 2 matches, 37 runs
Having been dropped from the Australian side during the last summer, Travis Head needs to show the Australian selectors he still has what it takes to compete at the highest level.
The South Australian captain brings valuable experience to Sussex and slots into the number 4 position. Having come to the championship late missing Sussex’s first four games, Head needs to impose himself on the competition.
It has been a disappointing start, scoring nine and eight against Northamptonshire in his first game back in the championship. Things did not go much better in the second match Head played against Kent, with the left-hander scoring 20.
While it has been slow goings for Head, he is good enough to score massive runs at the county level. There are still plenty of matches in the championship for Head to show his skills and achieve the runs he requires to put his name before the Australian selectors once again.
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