Aussies in the County Championship: Steketee, Labuschagne, and Harris impress across weeks three and four

Peter Siddle performed superbly for Somerset in his 200th first class match last week. (Photo: cricket.com.au)

The last fortnight of County Championship action saw some Australians continue to impress in English conditions, while others also earnt their first opportunities for their respective sides.

The Inner Sanctum takes a look at how each of the 11 Aussies fared across Divisions One and Two of the County Championship.

Mark Steketee (Essex):

In a 10-wicket loss to Warwickshire, Steketee performed commendably for his side. Despite leaking quite a few runs, the Queenslander took 4-130 off 26.2 overs in the first innings, making him Essex’s leading wicket-taker for the innings and ultimately the match. 

Bowling only eight overs in the second innings, Steketee finished with figures of 0-27.

During Essex’s next fixture against Northamptonshire, Steketee toiled hard with the ball, finishing with figures of 1-67 off 31 overs in the first innings, which included nine maidens. The match ultimately ended in a hard-fought draw. 

Marcus Harris (Gloucestershire):

Despite his side’s comprehensive loss to Lancashire, Harris continued his good form with the bat, compiling 67 off 117 balls in the first innings which proved to be the top score of Gloucestershire’s innings. Combining with fellow opening partner Chris Dent for an opening stand of 119, Gloucestershire was then skittled for a first-innings total of only 252.

Harris didn’t enjoy as much luck in the second innings, with the left-hander dismissed cheaply for seven by legendary English fast bowler James Anderson.

Following his omission from Australia’s Test squad for the upcoming tour of Sri Lanka, Harris responded in the best way possible against Surrey, reaching his second century for the season with a score of 124 off 209 balls. The 29-year-old’s knock included 18 fours and contributed to a mammoth 296-run opening partnership.

Harris is currently ranked sixth for total runs scored in Division 1 of the County Championship, having amassed 352 runs for the campaign thus far. 

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Marnus Labuschagne (Glamorgan):

Glamorgan’s clash with Middlesex set the scene for another installment of the growing rivalry between Labuschagne and Pakistani left-arm quick Shaheen Shah Afridi.

With Glamorgan being sent into bat, Labuschagne arrived at the crease in the second over of the innings. The 27-year-old didn’t last long, dismissed for eight by none other than Shaheen.

As we’ve become accustomed to in the early stages of the season, Labuschagne was again given an opportunity with the ball, claiming two wickets across 2.2 overs, including the wicket of Shaheen. However, it would be the Pakistani who would have the last laugh, trapping Labuschagne in front LBW for 23 off 30 balls in the second innings.

Glamorgan’s next clash with Derbyshire saw Labuschagne remind the cricketing world of his batting credentials. The ICC’s number one ranked test batsman in the world batted beautifully in the first innings, amassing 130 off 199 balls, including 14 fours and one six. 

This was then followed by a sublime 85 off 87 balls in the second innings, which included 12 fours and two sixes. Labuschagne’s efforts nearly dragged his team over the line, with Glamorgan falling only 21 runs short with two wickets remaining from snatching a memorable final day victory over Derbyshire. 

Michael Neser (Glamorgan):

Glamorgan’s innings and 82-run loss to Middlesex meant Neser only had one opportunity with the ball. The 32-year-old took 2-67 off 19 overs in the first innings, helping restrict Middlesex to 336.

A reflection of Glamorgan’s struggles with the bat, Neser’s knock of 27 proved to be the highest score of their second innings. 

Meanwhile, against Derbyshire, the Queenslander produced a fine display of fast bowling, collecting figures of 4-63 off 26.2 overs in the first innings of the match. This was backed up with figures of 0-40 off 13 overs in the second innings. 

Jackson Bird (Kent):

Having started his County Championship campaign with Kent in fine fashion, Bird is now unfortunately set for a stint on the sidelines, with the 35-year-old succumbing to a shoulder injury during his side’s comprehensive loss to Hampshire last week. 

Bird only bowled the 11 overs in the first innings, conceding 58 runs in the process.

The injury he sustained ruled him out of Kent’s next match against Yorkshire at Headingley where the clash ended in a draw.

Peter Handscomb (Middlesex):

Victorian Peter Handscomb represented Middlesex for the first time in season 2022, also captaining the side against Glamorgan. 

It wasn’t the most successful start to the season for Handscomb individually, with the 31-year-old dismissed for an eight-ball duck in the first innings. 

A commanding performance from Handscomb’s troops meant that the skipper didn’t bat again in the match. 

In Middlesex’s next clash with Leicestershire, Handscomb reached 27 off 41 balls in the first innings before ultimately being dismissed. A reflection of the strong form his side has shown, Handscomb was again denied another opportunity with the bat, with his side winning comfortably by 10 wickets.

Matthew Kelly (Northamptonshire):

Matthew Kelly earnt his first opportunity of the season against Yorkshire. With his side bowling first, Kelly bowled 16 overs and claimed figures of 2-62, helping restrict Yorkshire to a first-innings total of 296.

The West-Australian was less successful with the ball in the second innings, finishing with figures of 1-70 off 13 overs at an economy rate of 5.38.

However, despite not being known for his batting prowess, the 27-year-old compiled a crucial knock of 42 off 61 balls on the last day of the match to help his side cling on to an unlikely draw.

Having retained his spot in the side for Northamptonshire’s next meeting with Essex, Kelly took 2-50 off 14 overs in the first innings, followed by figures of 0-48 off 22 overs in the second.

James Pattinson (Nottinghamshire):

After a relatively circumspect start to his County Championship campaign, Pattinson was an important contributor to his side’s innings and 141-run victory over Durham last week.

The Victorian paceman took 1-46 off 15 overs in the first innings and also added a handy 37 runs off 64 balls with the bat. This was followed by impressive figures of 3-34 off 8.5 overs in the second innings which signified his best bowling display for the season thus far. 

However, Pattinson wasn’t selected for Nottinghamshire’s next match against Worcestershire, with the return of English seam bowler Stuart Broad edging him out of the side. 

Peter Siddle (Somerset):

Veteran fast bowler Peter Siddle continues to prove that age is just a number, producing a fine performance against Surrey in his 200th first-class match.

The 37-year-old was outstanding in the first innings, collecting figures of 6-51 off 26 overs at a remarkable economy rate of 1.96. This helped restrict Surrey to a first-innings total of 308.

Siddle was not as potent with the ball in the second innings, collecting one wicket off 12 overs, which proved not enough to prevent Surrey from claiming a three-wicket win.

Nevertheless, it was an inspiring performance from Siddle, who has paired well with fellow opening bowler Craig Overton so far this season. The duo have combined for 34 wickets till this point in the campaign, with Siddle taking 14 of his own. 

Siddle was not selected for Somerset’s next game against Warwickshire. 

Matthew Renshaw (Somerset):

Opening the batting for the first time of the season against Surrey, Renshaw compiled a well-constructed 48 off 117 balls in the first innings of the match. This could only be followed by a second innings score of 10 off 33 balls, with the Queenslander dismissed both times by Jamie Overton, the brother of teammate Craig Overton.

However, Renshaw would go on to star in his side’s demolition of Warwickshire days later. Having been sent into bat, the 26-year-old left-hander secured his first century of the campaign, amassing a classy 129 off 192 balls. Renshaw’s innings included 19 fours and two sixes, helping his side to an innings and 82 run victory.

Renshaw was recently named as a member of the Australia A squad for the upcoming tour of Sri Lanka.

Nathan McAndrew (Warwickshire):

In his first game of the season, it was a rather tough introduction for McAndrew against Somerset. 

With his side electing to bowl first, the 28-year-old could only muster figures of 0-100 off 25 overs in the first innings.

On a positive note, McAndrew demonstrated his capabilities with the bat, accumulating 47 off 88 balls whilst batting at number nine on debut. This was the second-highest individual score of Warwickshire’s first innings.

The next round of County Championship matches is due to begin on May 5.

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