NSW, Vic stars await Shield restart date
Ashes aspirants from NSW and Victoria are hopeful of finally playing some competitive cricket next week, making a belated start to the race for spots in Australia's Test squad.
Nathan Lyon headlines the list of players based in Sydney and Melbourne itching to launch their season after a long break, having been in a holding pattern since the start of September.
Cricket Australia (CA) tried to broker deals for both squads to quarantine interstate but talks with Northern Territory and South Australia's governments eventually fell flat.
A fortnight ago, CA, Cricket NSW and Cricket Victoria resolved to play three Sheffield Shield games and two one-day matches between the states.
Negotiations regarding the 'mini series' are ongoing but a Sydney start appears the most likely outcome, potentially in the final week of October.
There is scant time for further delays.
CA, which confirmed on Monday that Tony Dodemaide is joining the selection panel headed by George Bailey, wants to ensure players from all six states are given a fair chance to put their hand up for a baggy green.
Queensland, Tasmania, Western Australia and South Australia will all soon finish their second Shield game of the season, with Usman Khawaja's knock of 174 at Adelaide Oval among the early eye-catching performances.
Head coach Justin Langer is in the UAE for the Twenty20 World Cup, leaving Bailey and Dodemaide to keep a close eye on upcoming Shield action.
CA's high performance boss Ben Oliver predicted former fast bowler Dodemaide, who played 10 Tests then later became chief executive of WA Cricket and Cricket Victoria, would complement Bailey and Langer.
"He is an ideal fit for the selector role," Oliver said of the Victorian.
"Tony led a field of very strong candidates."
It is unclear when national selectors will settle on Australia's Ashes squad but recent evidence suggests they will wait until as late as possible.
Australia and Australia A players assembled in Southampton for a selection shootout prior to the 2019 Ashes.
England's warm-up fixtures for the five-Test series are yet to be confirmed, as are those for the England A squad that will also be on deck, but Australia A should be involved at some stage.
Marcus Harris is among several players who will have plenty at stake during the Victoria-NSW matches.
Test skipper Tim Paine made it clear last week he believed Victoria opener Harris was the frontrunner to partner David Warner at the Gabba, should Will Pucovski be unavailable because of concussion.
Pucovski's recent head knock means he is in doubt for Victoria's season-opening Shield clash, although the Vics are upbeat the prodigy could play.
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