As the Ashes series draws ever closer, two Australian players – one a guaranteed starter, the other a potential pick – have made the most of their stints with Glamorgan.
Marnus Labuschagne is the guaranteed starter, with the bubble gum-chewing batter a key member of the Baggy Greens side ever since becoming Test cricket’s first concussion substitute on Australia’s previous tour of England in 2019. He stepped in for Steve Smith then and now stars alongside him in the middle order.
Labuschagne, top of the Test batting rankings, has racked up 502 runs in eight County Championship innings for Glamorgan, with two hundreds and as many half-centuries, at an average north of 70.
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Men’s Ashes schedule 2023
- First Test (Edgbaston) – June 16-20
- Second Test (Lord’s) – June 28-July 2
- Third Test (Headingley) – July 6-10
- Fourth Test (Emirates Old Trafford) – July 19-23
- Fifth Test (Kia Oval) – July 27-31
Each of those fifty-plus totals, plus a score of 42, have come in Labuschagne’s previous six knocks with his only failure when he was pinned lbw by England seamer Ollie Robinson for one in the clash against Sussex last week.
Labuschagne rebounded by notching 138 in Glamorgan’s second innings, one which Robinson was largely absent for having been forced from the field by a sore left ankle that England will be praying does not wreck his hopes of featuring in The Ashes.
Neser boosts Ashes hopes with wickets and runs
Labuschagne’s form with the bat – he also piled on an unbeaten 170 against Yorkshire – comes as no surprise. But Michael Neser’s perhaps does.
Neser, the potential Ashes pick we mentioned at the top of this piece, is principally a seam bowler and he has performed that discipline superbly for Glamorgan over the course of five fixtures, with his 19 wickets including a career-best seven-for against Yorkshire that featured a hat-trick.
Around knocking over batters, the 33-year-old has been churning out the runs, with a score of 90 against Leicestershire followed by an 86 against Worcestershire and then eclipsed by the third first-class century of his career versus Sussex on Sunday.
Neser batted for almost four and a half hours to help his side pile on 737 all out and draw the game, with the knock-on effect that he denied Australia team-mate Smith a fourth and final hit of his short stint with Sussex.
There was both fanfare and frustration when Smith’s three-match spell at Hove was announced earlier this year – some championed the fact Sussex’s up-and-coming players would get the chance to learn from a modern-day great, others bemoaned an Australian linchpin being afforded time to acclimatise to English conditions ahead of The Ashes.
On the field, his stint was a little anticlimactic. Smith started with a knock of 30 against Worcestershire, backed that up with three against Leicestershire before closing out his time with 89 against Glamorgan in a game in which he also bagged two wickets with his part-time leg-spin. One of his scalps being that of Neser.
Neser was not included in Australia’s squad for the World Test Championship final against India at The Oval or the first two Ashes Tests but his exploits with bat and ball for Glamorgan could yet lead to a call-up, especially with key seamer Josh Hazlewood nursing a sore side.
The same applies to Sean Abbott, who has picked up 16 wickets and scored two half-centuries for Division One leaders Surrey this campaign.
Will Harris get the nod over Warner?
Gloucestershire opener Marcus Harris was named in Australia’s 17-man squad and has done his hopes of playing, perhaps at the expense of David Warner, no harm at all with two hundreds, two fifties and over 450 runs in total in the Championship.
Harris carried his bat for 122 in Gloucestershire’s defeat to Durham at the weekend, having also made 148 against Glamorgan in April.
The left-hander’s Test record is modest – an average of 25.29 in 14 games with a best of 79 – but so have been Warner’s returns of late. The veteran has passed fifty just once in his last 15 Test innings, admittedly with a double century against Pakistan.
Middle-order batter Peter Handscomb, meanwhile, was jettisoned by Australia from their initial Ashes group but remains a viable option, even if his form for Leicestershire has tailed off a little.
Seam bowler Peter Siddle is still plugging away in county cricket, too, with 16 wickets for Somerset so far this season.
The 38-year-old retired from the international scene in 2019, though, so if we see him in The Ashes it would suggest Australia have encountered the sort of pace-bowling injury crisis that seems to be engulfing England…
Watch Australia’s World Test Championship final against India (June 7-11) and then the Ashes series versus England (June 16-July 31) live on Sky Sports.