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Oval's pink-ball Shield Test looms as Ashes dress rehearsal

Cricket

Australian cricket’s brains trust will hope to expedite selection discussions but also pink-ball plans for England during the opening round of the Sheffield Shield.

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The conundrums facing national selectors, namely working out who to pick at No.6 and No.7 in the batting order, have been well documented by both coach Darren Lehmann and skipper Steve Smith.

The contenders and pretenders will be separated during the next four weeks.

However, the first Shield round will be players’ only chance for some day-night match practice ahead of the inaugural pink-ball Ashes Test at Adelaide Oval.

Australia’s first-class season starts tomorrow with Queensland hosting Victoria at the Gabba, while Western Australia face Tasmania in Perth.

But a clash between the Smith-led NSW and South Australia at Adelaide Oval, that starts on Friday, looms as the most meaningful dress rehearsal given the venue and sheer number of Test stars taking part.

“We’ve probably got a little more experience with the pink ball than the English do, so that’s a bit of a plus,” Smith said.

“It obviously plays a little bit different to the red ball and you’ve got to have some tactics in place.

“We’ve won our first two day-night Test matches, so let’s hope we can make it a third.”

Mitchell Starc, who was a handful in the inaugural day-night Test, will be aiming to demonstrate his prowess at hooping the pink ball later this week.

Vice-captain David Warner suggested Starc will be a day-night “nightmare” for England, who have only played one Test under lights.

Joe Root’s side have a single pink-ball tour game in Australia prior to the start of the five-Test series. South Africa successfully lobbied for two tune-ups under lights last year – and were defeated in their day-night dead rubber against Australia.

“There’s going to be that expectation that we’ll have that experience, edge,” Warner said.

“We’re all professionals and you have to adapt to every situation you’ve faced.

“They’ve played with the pink ball. We get to play on Adelaide Oval before the Test series, they do as well.

“There’s no excuse.”

Some players are starting to warm to the innovative fixture that was initially met with staunch opposition.

Mitchell Johnson was among the concept’s critics but is pleased to see how much assistance bowlers are gaining from grassy day-night pitches.

“Even through I don’t really like the day-night Tests, we’ve seen bowlers are getting something out of that. Which is good,” Johnson quipped.

-AAP

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