THE Advertiser cricket writer Richard Earle and former Australian batsman Callum Ferguson run the rule over the rivals attempting to thwart South Australia’s quest for a drought breaking Sheffield Shield title.
South Australia toiled for a respectable Sheffield Shield final draw against champion Victoria in oppressive conditions last March in Alice Springs.
The Redbacks return boasting the Sheffield Shield player of the year, swing king Chadd Sayers. Skipper Travis Head, keeper Alex Carey, speedsters Joe Mennie, Daniel Worrall, batsman Jake Lehmann and leg-spinner Adam Zampa are all in the frame for national selection this season.
Victoria has won three consecutive Sheffield Shield titles but has lost several stalwarts including keeper Matt Wade, batting allrounder Marcus Stoinis, batsman Rob Quiney and seamer John Hastings.
The Redbacks have the right age profile for success this season but will face a serious challenge from the unit they pipped for a Shield final berth last season, Western Australia.
The first three rounds of the competition present a platform to impress ahead of the first Ashes Test at the Gabba from November 23.
“There is a bit to play for. From a team perspective you can really set up a season coming up against a couple of better sides in the competition,” said Ferguson.
“On an individual level hopefully our boys who are pushing claims for the next level it will be a good chance to say pick me.”
The opening Shield round will be played under day night conditions as a precursor to the second Ashes Test in Adelaide to be played with the pink ball. The Redbacks again host a Test strength Blues in the season opener a Adelaide Oval starting October 28.
“It has almost been a good thing for us the last couple of years to come up against the best and take the season from there. We will be looking forward to that one,” said Ferguson.
Dukes balls replace the native Kookaburra variety for the second half of the season after the Big Bash League hiatus.
Victoria: 2016-17 Champion
Coach: Andrew McDonald
Squad: Peter Handscomb (captain/CA contract), Aaron Finch (CA), Glenn Maxwell (CA), James Pattinson (CA) Fawad Ahmed, Scott Boland, Daniel Christian, Jackson Coleman, Xavier Crone, Travis Dean, Sebastian Gotch, Sam Harper, Marcus Harris, Jon Holland, James Muirhead, Will Pucovski, Jake Reed, Matthew Short, Peter Siddle, Blake Thomson, Chris Tremain, Guy Walker, Cameron White.
Rookies: Zak Evans, Sam Grimwade, Jackson Koop, Tom O’Donnell, Mitch Perry, Will Sutherland.
In: Will Pucovski, Zak Evans, Mitch Perry, Will Sutherland.
Out: Matt Wade, Marcus Stoinis, Michael Beer, Evan Gulbis, Ian Holland, Rob Quiney.
Earle’s linchpin: Marcus Harris was Victoria’s leading Shield run-scorer last season with 808 and will assume increased responsibility in a top order expected to see little of Test batsman Peter Handscomb.
Ferg’s take: Victoria has lost a bit of experience but still have a lot of class. Their bowling attack has been rock solid for a number of years. Chris Tremain, Scott Boland, Peter Siddle and from a spin point of view there’s Fawad Ahmed and Jon Holland. Dan Christian, Marcus Harris and Cam White have a lot of experience with the bat.
The defending champion still has depth and I expect them to be right up the tree just as they have been for the past three seasons. Will Sutherland is a batting allrounder, an exciting talent especially when he could have gone down the footy path.
South Australia – 2016-17 2nd
Coach: Jamie Siddons
Squad: Travis Head (CA contract), Adam Zampa (CA), Tom Andrews, Nick Benton, Alex Carey, Tom Cooper, John Dalton, Callum Ferguson, David Grant, Jake Lehmann, Joe Mennie, Harry Nielsen, Patrick Page Jnr, Kane Richardson, Alex Ross, Chadd Sayers, Kelvin Smith, Cameron Valente, Jake Weatherald, Nick Winter, Daniel Worrall
Rookie: Spencer Johnson, Lloyd Pope, Ben Pengelley, Michael Cormack, Jake Winter, Daniel Drew
In: John Dalton, Harry Nielsen, Nick Winter
Out: Tim Ludeman, Sam Raphael, Wes Agar, Alex Gregory
Earle’s Linchpin: Callum Ferguson and Travis Head are the bonafide batting stars but for SA to win the title Jake Lehmann needs an 800-run plus season to back an elite attack. Lehmann made runs when others couldn’t last season and will be crucial on spicy Adelaide Oval decks.
Ferg’s take: I am not sure how much we will have of Travis Head but guys like our keeper Alex Carey and opener Jake Weatherald will be looking to take the next step. If Kez does it could mean anything for him over the next 12 months. Hopefully Jake Lehmann can go again this year and is one to watch and could be on the radar for higher honours with Kez. We have a well rounded mix of youth of experience. We have depth in the bowling which has made a huge difference over the past 18 months. Opener John Dalton has only played a couple of games but looked at home from ball one.
Queensland – 2016-17 5th
Coach: Wade Seccombe
Squad: Usman Khawaja, (capt/CA), Billy Stanlake (CA), Matt Renshaw, (CA)
James Bazley, Joe Burns, Ben Cutting, Brendan Doggett, Luke Feldman,
Peter Forrest, Jason Floros, Cameron Gannon, Peter George,
Sam Heazlett, Charlie Hemphrey, Marnus Labuschagne, Michael Neser, Lachlan Pfeffer,
James Peirson, Mark Steketee, Mitch Swepson, Sam Truloff, Jack Wildermuth,
Rookies: Xavier Bartlett, Max Bryant, Matthew Kuhnemann, Jack Prestwidge, Bryce Street, Harry Wood.
Ins: Lachlan Pfeffer, Brendan Doggett, Sam Truloff
Outs: Chris Lynn, Nathan Reardon
Earle’s Linchpin: Joe Burns is a former Test opener with a ton of talent and capable of producing big runs in testing conditions at the Gabba. Burns must bide has time for a Test recall but delivered 724 runs at 40 last season and set for more this season, anchoring an order without Usman Khawaja and Matt Renshaw.
Ferg’s take: Joe Burns and Marnus Labuschagne, who has really stepped up, are two really big keys for their batting. They have three allrounders who give them flexibility. There’s Jack Wildermuth while Michael Neser’s batting seems to have gone to another level. Ben Cutting is a bit of a bowling allrounder. They are a fresher side this year but have some bowling talent with Mark Steketee and Cameron Gannon. They have a new coach with Wade Seccombe replacing Phil Jaques while Jimmy Peirson should succeed stalwart Chris Hartley.
New South Wales – 2016-17 4th
Coach: Trent Johnston
Squad: Steve Smith (CA) David Warner (CA), Mitchell Starc (CA), Josh Hazlewood (CA), Pat Cummins (CA), Nathan Lyon (CA),Moises Henriques, Peter Nevill, Nic Maddinson, Stephen O’Keefe, Kurtis Patterson, Sean Abbott, Gurinder Sandhu, Ben Dwarshius , Ed Cowan, Will Somerville, Daniel Hughes, Nick Larkin, Trent Copeland, Harry Conway, Ryan Gibson, Arjun Nair, Charlie Stobo, Jay Lenton, Doug Bollinger, Henry Thornton
Rookies: Jordan Gauci, Dan Fallins, Mickey Edwards, Param Uppal, Jason Sangha, Liam Hatcher
Ins: Charlie Stobo, Henry Thornton
Outs: Ben Rohrer, Ryan Carters, Josh Lalor, Chris Green, Jonty Pattinson
Earle’s linchpin: Former Test batsman Ed Cowan is 35 but remains the Blues most reliable batsmen having topped the Sheffield Shield aggregate with 959 runs at 73.56 last season. Cowan’s sole focus is first class cricket which is crucial in a squad with at least 10 members who will play international cricket this summer.
Ferg’s take: New South Wales has good experience in Moises Henriques while the rocks to that line up are Peter Nevill and Ed Cowan. Daniel Hughes has been a standout improver over the last 12 months while Kurtis Patterson was also named for the Australia A side that didn’t tour South Africa. Nic Maddinson is the X-Factor. They have some youth in there, Sean Abbott continues to improve. A young fast bowler in Mickey Edwards is one to watch who did quite well in the JLT Cup. They will be quite a strong line-up again this year with batting being their strength.
Tasmania – 2016-17 Last
Coach: Adam Griffith
Squad: Jackson Bird (CA), Matthew Wade (CA), George Bailey (c), Gabe Bell, Cameron Boyce, Nick Buchanan, Alex Doolan, Jake Doran, Ben Dunk, James Faulkner, Andrew Fekete, Jake Hancock, Ben McDermott, Simon Milenko, Tim Paine, Andrew Perrin, Sam Rainbird, Tom Rogers, Jordan Silk, Cameron Stevenson, Charlie Wakim, Beau Webster.
Rookies; Caleb Jewel, Riley Meredith, Corey Murfet, Mac Wright, Aaron Summers, Liam Devlin
Ins: Gabe Bell, Nick Buchanan, Tom Rogers, Matthew Wade, Charlie Wakim
Outs: Xavier Doherty, Hamish Kingston, Dom Michael, Cameron Wheatley.
Earle’s linchpin: Former Test middle-order batsman George Bailey is a respected leader of men while his remodelled stance delivered 839 runs at 59.9 last season. Remains integral to the rebuild of Tasmania’s first-class unit after its three disappointing seasons.
Ferg’s take: Tasmania has a sprinkling of youth and experience in their side. It will be interesting to see what line-up they go with. George Bailey and Alex Doolan, those guys in the middle of the order, will be pretty important for them. James Faulkner as the allrounder will be really important while Jackson Bird’s availability will be bolster the bowling. They had a tough year, made some changes with Matt Wade returning and Adam Griffith as coach. They will be a side that could come at us with a real fresh look. Ben McDermott is a likely type coming through who had a good JLT Cup
Western Australia – 2016-17 3rd
Squad: Ashton Agar (CA) Mitchell Marsh (CA), Hilton Cartwright (CA), Cameron Bancroft, Jason Behrendorff, William Bosisto, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Cameron Green, Joshua Inglis, Michael Klinger, Simon Mackin, Shaun Marsh, David Moody, Joel Paris, Jhye Richardson, D’Arcy Short, Marcus Stoinis, Ashton Turner, Andrew Tye, Jonathan Wells, Sam Whiteman.
Rookies: Alex Bevilaqua, Jake Carder, Kyle Gardiner, Clint Hinchliffe, Matthew Kelly, Matthew Spoors.
Ins: Marcus Stoinis, Matthew Spoors
Outs: Ryan Duffield, Josh Nicholas, Liam O’Connor, Adam Voges, Nathan Rimmington.
Earle’s linchpin: Justin Langer has assembled the most imposing pace young posse in the country while allrounders Hilton Cartright and Ashton Turner led WA’s run-scoring last season. However Shaun Marsh is the senior specialist batsman that has to fire for the resurgent Warriors. If Marsh’s Test career is over and his body holds together expect a bumper season.
Ferg’s take: Western Australia have some guys who give them options with the ball. Jason Behrendorff will be a real key and Simon Mackin has been around a couple of years now. They have young quicks with air speed in David Moody and Jhye Richardson. Matthew Kelly swings the ball quite well. There are a side with a fair bit of flexibility on tracks around the country with allrounders in Mitchell Marsh, Ashton Agar, Hilton Cartwright and Ashton Turner. They will be competitive. Their experienced batters Michael Klinger, Shaun Marsh and Mitchell Marsh are the three guys who they will rely on with support from Cameron Bancroft.