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Bancroft torments SA as Ashes hopefuls blow audition


Cameron Bancroft continued his late charge for an Ashes berth with an unbeaten 161 for Western Australia in their Sheffield Shield match against South Australia.

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His knock at the WACA Ground comes off the back of a 76 not out and 86 a week ago against NSW’s Test attack.

The No.6 spot in the Australian line-up appears the most likely way in for the opener who’d contend with the likes of Glenn Maxwell, Jake Lehmann and Hilton Cartwright for the role.

While Matthew Renshaw has failed to impress for Queensland as an opener this season it is thought the selectors are likely to consider his otherwise good recent form for the national side. 

Bancroft has also taken the gloves for his side’s last two Shield games and coach Justin Langer has backed him to to play behind the stumps for Australia if asked.

Incumbent ‘keeper Matthew Wade has continued to struggle with the bat for Tasmania but Bancroft’s limited time with the gloves seemingly has NSW’s Peter Nevill best placed for the job.

But there’s no questioning Bancroft’s work with the bat.

The 24-year-old brought up his 11th first-class century on day one at the WACA Ground, putting the Redbacks bowlers to the sword on a tame pitch.

He helped take WA to 5-381 at stumps. Will Bosisto is eight not out.

Earlier fellow Test hopefuls Shaun Marsh (17) and Cartwright (35) failed to fire.

Captain Mitch Marsh did, rocketing to 95 before attempting one too many pull shots and getting caught behind off Daniel Worrall. He had hooked two short balls for six that over.

All eyes were on the Test hopefuls for the Gabba though. Shaun Marsh chopped on a ball from Joe Mennie that could have spelled the end of his Ashes hopes, at least for Brisbane.

Cartwright’s modest return comes after two ducks against NSW.

It has been tough going for South Australia’s bowlers. Mennie had two wickets but has conceded 114 runs in 20 overs.

WA suffered a blow before the game with Jason Behrendorff joining Nathan Coulter-Nile sidelined with a back complaint.

Meanwhile, any lingering doubts over Usman Khawaja as Australia’s No.3 for the Ashes were dismissed after the Queensland captain’s lone hand in the top of the table Sheffield Shield clash with NSW in Brisbane.

Khawaja’s unbeaten 78 was the shining light for a Queensland side bowled out for 183 by a NSW attack without rested Test stars Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins.

Under-pressure Test opener Renshaw was among the Bulls to struggle on the demanding Allan Border Field deck, caught behind for 16.

Stumps were called with NSW 3-83 in reply after Blues captain Steve Smith was caught at bat-pad for 44 off Jack Wildermuth (2-13) with five balls left for the day.

Khawaja looks primed for the first Test starting at the Gabba next week after moving his Shield tally to 295 runs at 98.33.

But Khawaja’s journey in and out of the Test side since his baggy green debut six years ago has taught the elegant left-hander to keep his bold statements on the field.

“I am feeling good, things are going well but I know how quickly it can change,” Khawaja said.

“You can’t think too far ahead but my mindset doesn’t change, I want to keep scoring runs.”

Only five Queenslanders reached double figures against a new look Blues attack of Trent Copeland (3-33), Doug Bollinger (3-38) and Sean Abbott (1-42).

NSW’s Test offspinner Nathan Lyon warmed up for the Ashes opener with 3-59.

Renshaw was given caught behind off Copeland in just the 12th over.

He was clearly unhappy with the decision, standing his ground before trudging off.

He has 69 Shield runs at 13.80 this summer.

Khawaja felt for Renshaw after the opener became one of Test ‘keeping aspirant Nevill’s four dismissals.

“I thought he missed it but that’s cricket,” he said.

“I thought he was batting really well… he was a bit unlucky with the decision.

“He was looking really good. It was unfortunate what happened but I am sure he will get runs in the second innings.”

Khawaja looked untroubled after arriving at the crease in the fifth over with the Bulls 1-11 when Joe Burns fell for two.

His 192-ball innings lasted more than four hours and featured eight fours and a six.

Matthew Wade and Glenn Maxwell slipped up in their final Ashes audition as wickets tumbled on day one of yesterday’s clash between Victoria and Tasmania.

Incumbent Test wicketkeeper Wade was dismissed for five off 42 balls as Tasmania were bowled out for 172 at the MCG.

Events took an unexpected turn in the final session with Tasmanian right-arm quick Gabe Bell ripping through Victoria’s top order to leave them reeling at 4-25 off six overs.

Marcus Harris (61) and Daniel Christian (28) then steadied the ship with an unbeaten 78-run stand as Victoria went to stumps at 4-103.

Playing in just his fourth first-class game, 22-year-old Bell had Maxwell (four) caught behind attempting to drive a delivery which swung away from the right-hander.

Test batsman Peter Handscomb, caught at second slip, and Aaron Finch, trapped lbw, both made ducks as Bell (4-22) claimed wickets from each of his first three overs.

Tasmanian skipper George Bailey earlier made a gallant 106 but was one of only three Tigers batsmen to reach double figures.

Wade fell in the third over after lunch attempting to play a pull shot to a Peter Siddle delivery which pitched on middle-and-off and rocketed into his stumps.

His rash dismissal was the latest in a series of poor batting performances which do not bode well for his Ashes prospects.

“I thought Scotty Boland just bowled a really good spell to him (before lunch) and gave him nothing,” Bailey said of Wade.

“Coming out after lunch, you’d like something to get you going and you’ve got Peter Siddle, who’s pretty miserly as well.

“No doubt that dot-ball pressure built on him. The shot he played probably wasn’t there.”

National selectors may be unwilling to risk playing a batsman who has averaged just 20 since his Test recall last summer.

The Ashes squad will be named on Friday with Nevill tipped to get the nod ahead of Wade.

Nevill snared three catches, including an impressive diving effort to dismiss Joe Burns off the bowling of Doug Bollinger, in the opening session of NSW’s Shield clash with Queensland.


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