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Is in-form Lehmann SA's Ashes bolter?

Cricket

Glenn Maxwell may be the Test No.6 frontrunner but South Australian captain Travis Head says young bolter Jake Lehmann is ready to be thrown into the Ashes cauldron.

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Maxwell bolstered his case to be picked for the first Test in Brisbane starting November 23 with back-to-back half-centuries in Victoria’s Sheffield Shield draw with South Australia.

After scoring 60 in the first innings, Maxwell delivered another assured knock, cracking two sixes and five fours before being trapped lbw on 64 by a Joe Mennie yorker.

With key No.6 alternative Hilton Cartwright making a pair of ducks during Western Australia’s Shield clash with NSW, the stars would appear to be aligning for Maxwell.

That is unless 25-year-old Lehmann continues to bash down the selection door after announcing himself as a serious contender with scores of 103 and 93 for South Australia.

The son of Australian coach Darren Lehmann has just two-and-a-half years of first-class experience to his name.

But Redbacks skipper Head said Lehmann’s first-class average of 44 was strong enough to demand higher honours.

“He played extremely well last year and it’s great to see him keep putting his name forward,” Head said.

“I’d like to see him picked. (Selectors want) in-form batters, and he’s basically got a hundred in both innings.

“He’s got good experience – he’s done it for a few seasons now. I think everyone knows around Australia how good he is.”

Lehmann was also on the radar of Australian skipper Steve Smith, who noted the uncanny similarity between father and son.

“He almost bats the same as ‘Boof’, stays very leg-side of the ball and frees his hands and takes the game on,” Smith said.

“He must have played really well this week in Melbourne and he’s obviously started his career pretty well as well, so I’m sure he’s going to keep improving as well.”

Lehmann will have another chance to impress selectors before the Ashes squad is named midway through the next round of Shield games.

But Test teammate and Victorian skipper Peter Handscomb said the No.6 spot was Maxwell’s to lose.

“He’s looking really good, he’s balanced and he’s sticking to his gameplan,” Handscomb said.

“He’s been working that hard and he wants to keep that spot, and I see no reason why he can’t but he’s got to keep making runs.

“He’s done a good job now and he has to do it again next week.”

Meanwhile, the uncapped Tom Curran’s selection to replace injured paceman Steve Finn for the Ashes has sparked concerns about England’s bowling inexperience.

Curran, 22, will fly to Australia today after Finn’s campaign was deemed over before it began due to a knee injury.

Surrey’s Curran has played international Twenty20 and one-day cricket but no Tests for England, contributing strongly to the second-tier England Lions in 2017.

He finished the County Championship season with 24 wickets from nine matches at an average of 34.66.

“I’m very proud and humbled,” Curran told the Surrey website.

“It’s been a real roller-coaster of a year, but a year I will never forget, and I am so excited to travel out to Australia. I’m very privileged to be experiencing this.

“It is a very proud day and I can’t wait to get out there with the England and Surrey players.”

Finn, who was injured while training in Perth last week, joins on the sidelines fellow proven Ashes fast bowling performer Mark Wood, who’s not being considered due to fitness concerns.

It leaves England with James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes as the only pacemen with Ashes experience, with the latter having played one Test.

Former England Test quick Chris Tremlett tweeted his concerns following the absence of Finn, who had taken 28 Australian wickets in seven matches.

Tall seamer Finn, who was a late call-up to the touring squad to replace allrounder Ben Stokes, has torn cartilage in his left knee.

Vice-captain Stokes remains in England awaiting the outcome of a police investigation into his role in a fight outside a nightclub in September ahead of the first Test in Brisbane starting on November 23.

England meet a Cricket Australia XI in a day-night match at Adelaide Oval from today to Saturday.

Spinner Moeen Ali has also been ruled out of the tour game after suffering a side strain last week in Perth.

England coach Trevor Bayliss expects Ali to be fit for the next tour game, in Townsville from November 15.

-AAP

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