For decades, the Australian Test team has been renowned for consisting of players from New South Wales more than any other state. However, the next generation looks set to look a lot different.
Particularly within the 21st century, New South Wales has produced ten more Test players than the next highest state in Victoria, also more than doubling the output from the likes of South Australia, Queensland and Tasmania.
Of the Australian team that played the first Ashes Test at the Gabba, six of the 11 selected players represent New South Wales at domestic level: David Warner, Steve Smith, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon and Josh Hazlewood.
However, age is beginning to creep up on these players. Cummins is the only one of the six currently under the age of 30.
Before we know it, Australia will have a new generation of Test players, and there’s every chance there will be minimal Blues involved.
Instead, their northern neighbours could become the new kids on the block. A strong Sheffield Shield winning list has filled the majority of the most recent Australia A squad.
The squad featured six Queenslanders that were instrumental in Australia A’s defeat over the England Lions.
The Australia A team is often considered as Australia’s second XI, a squad of players that are the closest to receiving a call up to the Test team.
With that in mind, how long could it be before the aging Test players from New South Wales are replaced the group of Queensland cricketers knocking on the door?
The second test of the Ashes could well mark the beginning, after Josh Hazlewood was ruled out for the match. Michael Neser has joined Jhye Richardson as the primary challengers to be his replacement.
In the Australia A game, Neser took five wickets in the first innings, tearing through the English batting line-up that could only manage a total of 103 runs.
Neser has been on the brink of earning his baggy green for three years, being the ‘go to’ 12th man, but now could be his best opportunity yet to make the starting XI.
Mitch Swepson has been waiting patiently in tandem with Neser. Nathan Lyon just recorded his 400th Test wicket, but Swepson has been keeping the 34-year-old off-spinner on his toes over the last couple years.
Mark Steketee is also another pace bowling candidate who was once named in the Test squad that couldn’t make the trip to South Africa due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
And who could forget the time when Matthew Renshaw looked set to be Australia’s mainstay opener for the forthcoming decade? He made his debut at the age of 20, playing 11 Test matches and scoring a century in one before injury struck.
The now 25-year-old is back to playing his best cricket as a middle order batter since he last represented Australia, having to overcome injury, mental illness and poor form.
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Bryce Street is beginning to score more and more runs at the top of the order, and has shot into Test calculations. Known for his temperament and ability to dot the ball up at one end of the pitch, Street has diversified his stroke range and has found it easier to score more willingly.
Street performed well in the most recent Australia A match, recording an unbeaten 119 runs before declaring. This has placed him in contention to become David Warner’s potential replacement should he be ruled out after suffering a blow to his ribs in the first match of the Ashes.Embed from Getty Images
Additionally, Jimmy Peirson was an outside chance to become Tim Paine’s replacement wicketkeeper, while Matthew Kuhnemann has burst onto the scene with an impressive Sheffield Shield season to date. Kuhnemann has taken the most wickets in the competition this season.
Marnus Labuschagne has already asserted himself as long-term member of the Test team, currently sitting as the fourth highest ranked ICC male batter.
There’s every chance with this Queensland squad pushing selection, and a handful of the current Australian players in the twilight of their international careers, that the blue that dominates the Test squad could slowly be painted maroon in years to come.
A lot could happen between now and then, and ‘then’ could still be years away. But as things stand, when the likes of Warner (35), Smith (32), Starc (31) and Lyon (34) move on, the reign New South Wales has in the Test side will soon be over, at least for the time being.
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