Matthew Renshaw is putting together a fine County Championship campaign with Somerset. (Photo: cricket.com.au)

With a tour of Sri Lanka on the horizon for some Australians currently plying their craft in England, recent County Championship matches served as an opportunity to gain some form ahead of a trip to the subcontinent.

With a tour of Sri Lanka on the horizon for some Australians currently plying their craft in England, recent County Championship matches served as an opportunity to gain some form ahead of a trip to the subcontinent. 

The Inner Sanctum takes a look at how each of the 10 Aussies fared across the last fortnight of action. 

Mark Steketee (Essex):

It was a rather subdued performance from Steketee in his side’s clash with Yorkshire last week. The Queensland paceman finished with figures of 0-61 off 10 overs in the first innings and didn’t bowl again, with the match ultimately ending in a draw.

Essex’s next fixture is against Lancashire, beginning on May 19.

Marnus Labuschagne (Glamorgan):

Labuschagne was in the thick of the action during Glamorgan’s six-wicket win over Leicestershire last week. After electing to bowl first, Glamorgan struggled to make early inroads before Labuschagne was thrown the ball by his captain.

Bowling leg-spin, the 27-year-old broke Leicestershire’s opening partnership of 90 to assert himself into the contest and later found himself on a hat-trick after dismissing South African Wiaan Mulder and Scott Steel in successive deliveries.

A hat-trick would not ensue, with Labuschagne ultimately finishing the first innings with impressive figures of 3-65 off 17 overs. He also contributed with a direct hit run out to wrap up Leicestershire’s batting innings.

However, Australia’s number three batter in Test cricket was less influential with the bat, missing out in both innings. Labuschagne was dismissed for 17 off 39 balls in the first innings and could only muster 13 off 14 balls in the second.

It was a similar storyline for Labuschagne against Durham. Having been dismissed cheaply for 17 off 52 balls in the first innings, the Queenslander embraced his opportunity with the ball, taking 3-35 off 14 overs in the second innings to help restrict Durham to a modest total of 244. This included the prized wicket of recently appointed England Test captain Ben Stokes for 26.

Chasing 191 for victory, Labuschagne added 31 off 46 balls in Glamorgan’s second innings, with his side ultimately falling short by 58 runs on the final day.

Glamorgan currently sits third on the ladder in Division Two of the County Championship.

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Michael Neser (Glamorgan):

Neser was an important contributor to his side’s victory over Leicestershire, building upon what has been a consistent County Championship campaign thus far for the 32-year-old.

Neser took 1-46 off 22 overs and also executed a direct hit run out in the first innings of the match. Importantly, however, he also added a patient 29 off 108 balls with the bat to help his side build a highly valuable 117-run first-innings lead.

Neser went on to collect figures of 3-60 off 19 overs in the second innings.

The Queensland paceman continued to excel with both bat and ball during his side’s clash with Durham. After collecting 2-36 off 16 overs in the first innings, Neser complied a highly valuable knock of 62 off 88 balls to dig his side out of trouble and help them establish a 54-run first-innings lead. Neser came to the crease with the score at 7-163, contributing to a 113-run partnership with fellow lower-order batter Billy Root.

Neser again showcased his quality with the ball in the second innings, taking 4-57 off 21.2 overs. He currently ranks as the fourth-highest wicket-taker in Division Two, having claimed 20 wickets till this point of the season.

Marcus Harris (Gloucestershire):

After a hot start to his County Championship campaign with Gloucestershire, which included two centuries, Harris’ form has waned in recent weeks.

Against Hampshire, Harris recorded 17 off 52 balls in the first innings. The left-handed opening batter was the fifth wicket to fall in what was a top-order collapse for Gloucestershire.

It was much of the same for Harris in the second innings. Having survived the initial threat of the new ball, the 29-year-old was dismissed for 18 off 63 balls by Pakistani medium-fast bowler Mohammad Abbas.

During his side’s next clash with Somerset, Harris got himself to 32 off 73 balls in the first innings before being dismissed. He could only add 15 off 32 balls in the second, with Gloucestershire succumbing comprehensively by an innings and 246 runs.

Gloucestershire is currently languishing in the bottom two on the ladder in Division One of the County Championship. Nevertheless, Harris remains the seventh-highest run-scorer for the division, having amassed 434 runs across six matches thus far.

Peter Handscomb (Middlesex):

Middlesex’s seven-wicket win over Sussex saw Handscomb produce his best batting innings to date. Despite being dismissed cheaply for six by English fast bowler Ollie Robinson in the first innings, the Victorian responded in the second, compiling a confidence-boosting knock of 79 off 142 balls to help his side secure victory on the final day of the match.

This form carried through into Middlesex’s next clash with Nottinghamshire, where Handscomb notched 48 of 89 balls in the first innings, which proved to be the top score of Middlesex’s innings. The 31-year-old failed to make an impact in the second innings, only reaching 7 off 46 balls. Handscomb was dismissed on both occasions by Victorian teammate James Pattinson.

Matthew Kelly (Northamptonshire):

Kelly struggled to influence with the ball during his side’s comprehensive loss to Surrey last week, with Northamptonshire going down by an innings and five runs. The West Australian finished with figures of 0-90 off 25 overs in the first innings and didn’t bowl again due to Surrey enforcing the follow-on.

However, the 27-year-old toiled hard with the bat lower down the order, scoring 17 of 51 balls and 33 off 63 balls respectively across both innings.

In Northamptonshire’s draw with Warwickshire, batter friendly conditions meant that bowlers struggled to have an impact across the four days of the match. With the bat, Kelly scored a quickfire 26 off 22 balls to help his side reach a massive first innings total of 6-597. This was followed by respectable figures of 1-62 off 23 overs.

James Pattinson (Nottinghamshire):

After not being selected to face Worcestershire last week, Pattinson returned to the side for Nottinghamshire’s clash against Middlesex.

The Victorian paceman made an immediate impact with the ball, finishing with figures of 4-49 off 17 overs in the first innings, which included the wicket of Victorian teammate and captain Peter Handscomb. 

The 32-year-old collected one wicket in the second innings, with the rain-affected match ultimately ending in a draw.

Peter Siddle (Somerset):

Siddle returned to the Somerset line-up for its clash with Gloucestershire, after missing last week’s encounter with Warwickshire. The dominance of England left-arm off-spinner Jack Leach, who took eight wickets for the match, meant that the 37-year-old veteran had little to do during his side’s comfortable victory.

Siddle was at his economical best, taking 1-31 off 16 overs in the first innings and finishing with figures of 1-25 off 11 overs in the second. He has now claimed 16 wickets so far this season and has been a consistent performer for Somerset.

Matthew Renshaw (Somerset):

After being recently named in the Australia A squad for the imminent tour of Sri Lanka, Renshaw continues to impress in English conditions.

The 26-year-old set the tone on day one of his side’s meeting with Gloucestershire, blasting his way to 94 off 141 balls to help Somerset set an imposing first-innings total of 591. The Queenslander’s knock included 16 boundaries and contributed to a 172-run opening stand with fellow opener Tom Lammonby.

Such was his side’s dominance with the ball, Renshaw didn’t bat again, with Somerset defeating Gloucestershire by an innings and 246 runs.

Nathan McAndrew (Warwickshire):

McAndrew performed admirably during Warwickshire’s clash with Lancashire last week. The 28-year-old produced his best bowling display for the campaign thus far, claiming impressive figures of 4-85 off 29 overs to help restrict Lancashire to a first-innings total of 361.

Warwickshire’s more recent encounter with Northamptonshire saw McAndrew collect figures of 3-121 off 35 overs. It was a commendable performance from McAndrew, given only 10 wickets fell across the entire four days of the match.

The next round of County Championship action is due to begin on May 19.

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