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Will Pucovski won’t be ready for opening Ashes Test after being ruled out of Victoria’s clash with NSW



David Warner will have a new opening partner for the Ashes after Will Pucovski’s concussion comeback hit another hurdle.

Batting star Will Pucovski hasn’t yet returned to the nets a month after his 10th concussion and may not be available for Australia until the middle of the Ashes.

Pucovski won’t play for Victoria against NSW at the MCG in a Sheffield Shield clash starting this Friday, which is a “touch too soon” as he continues to recover from the effects of the concussion suffered on October 5 at training.

Victorian coach Chris Rogers said there was a “strong desire” to get the 23-year-old into the Test team, but everyone was taking a long-term view of Pucovski’s cricket future.

Rogers said Pucovski, who was the frontrunner to open with David Warner during the Ashes, could be ready for one of the later Tests in a “best-case scenario” as he returns to full fitness.

“He hasn’t quite recovered as well as hoped. In discussions with the medical team and the national selectors it was felt we would give him a bit more time to select him to play for Victoria,” Rogers said.

“He hasn’t started hitting the nets, I think that was the main concern. It’s really difficult just to walk into one of these games unprepared. All the people who are in these conversations understand we have an immense talent on our hands and we want him to be playing for five to 10 years, so these are the decisions we are going to make in his best interests to set him up to have a long career.

“There’s some symptoms which are just a little too close to the game.”

Pucovski trained on Wednesday and was “positive” about how his recovery was tracking.

But his playing return may not come until a yet-to-be-confirmed third Sheffield Shield game in mid-November or even a Victorian second XI game.

Rogers said that would delay any chance of him playing in the Ashes until mid-series.

“No doubt it’s a setback. I’d say now it’s unlikely he’d play in the first Test,” he said.

“Hopefully, if we play a third Shield game in mid-November and there may be a second XI game for Victoria as well, that might prepare him for one of the matches in the middle of the Ashes series. That’s the best-case scenario.

“He was very positive about how it was all tracking and pretty hopeful of playing soon, but he felt this match was a touch too early.”

Rogers said Pucovski, who hasn’t played a game since injuring his shoulder in his Test debut last January, was “frustrated” by this latest concussion and its lingering effects.

But the young star also knows he has to be fully ready when he makes a playing return.

“He hasn’t played for seven months. You have to walk straight back in the cauldron and perform against very good opposition. That would have been playing on his mind,” Rogers said.

“Of course he wants to play for Australia for a long time to come. There’s a strong desire to get him into that Australian side, he’s such a talented player.

“I think the decision is to look after him and allow him a bit more time to prepare in the right time rather than rush him to matches which are going to have a lot of intensity and scrutiny.”

Originally published as Batting gun Will Pucovski won’t be ready to play for Australia until the middle of the Ashes as he recovers from another concussion




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T20 World Cup news; Australian captain Aaron Finch on must-win game against Bangladesh



It was only two months ago Australia couldn’t score a run against Bangladesh, and now they have to beat the Tigers to stay alive at the World Cup.

Australia averaged just 102 runs an innings in a miserable 4-1 series loss to Bangladesh in August, but captain Aaron Finch is adamant his team can find the runs needed in a “must-win” showdown with the Tigers at the T20 World Cup.

Mitch Marsh, who was controversially left out of Australia’s thrashing at the hands of England on Saturday night, and Matthew Wade are, however, the only two batsman from that T20 tour who have made it to the World Cup.

Finch had to leave for knee surgery, leaving Wade to skipper the side to totals of just 108, 121, 117, 105 and finally an ugly 62 in a series played on what spinner Adam Zampa called “the worst” international pitches he has played on in Dhaka.

But through three games at the World Cup the return of Australia’s best batters hasn’t produced the big scores necessary to promote confidence of progression to the finals.

Through the opening three matches Australia just reeled in South Africa’s sub-par 119 in the opening match, then peeled off 155 in just 17 overs to beat Sri Lanka in the second before struggling to just 125 against England.

That record gives Finch’s men just one total in the top 35 at the tournament so far.

Bangladesh has five, two against Sri Lanka and the West Indies, Australia’ final opponent in the pool games. Three other big scores from the Tigers came against countries including Oman in the qualifying stages.

But Finch said there was no issues about the players “gelling”, having only come together as a team 10 days before the tournament after six months apart, and was confident their best was not far off.

“Well, it wasn’t too long ago that we were No. 1 in the world, so I still think that we’re a very good team in T20 international cricket,” he said.

“Everyone has got their own opinion, so that doesn’t really matter. What matters is results. That’s fine if you think that we’re a really ordinary side, that’s OK.

“I think we’ve got a couple of days off to refresh and recharge. The boys have been training really well and deserve a couple of days off … so recharge the batteries and then a couple of really strong days of training, and then we’ll be back into it.

“There’s a lot of experience in the group. I’m not concerned about carrying baggage into a different game against a totally different opposition.”

Australian legend Shane Warne declared that Marsh “has to play” in the next match and Steve Smith should go because he has never “nailed T20”.

“Having the player that everyone can bat around has gone – those days of T20 are gone with the big bats and the small boundaries,” Warne told Fox Sports.

“You’ve got to start bashing it. You just have to bash it and go into beast mode.”

Australia has to beat both Bangladesh and the West Indies to make the semi-finals of the tournament, a fact not lost on Finch given the impact of the loss to England.

“Oh, they’re definitely must-wins. I think the net run rate took a hammering tonight. Yeah, so we’re going to have to be at our best again,” he said.

“Bangladesh are a very, very good side and so are the West Indies, a lot of firepower in their team, a lot of experience, so yeah, absolutely. It‘s must-win from now on, but we’re looking forward to it.”

Originally published as Australia has to turn around a 4-1 series loss to Bangladesh in August to keep World Cup campaign alive




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Sheffield Shield: Marnus Labuschagne made another half-century for Queensland as a new spin hero emerged



 The Australian Test top order is back in the runs at home and abroad and even those vying for a spot are racking up big scores.

It’s all starting to come together for the Australian top order ahead of the Ashes and Marnus Labuschagne is only just warming up.

The run-hungry Test star showed all his next-level credentials in a stunning second innings score of 60 against Tasmania as an entree to a summer of potentially feasting on English bowlers.

After Queensland spinner Matt Kuhnemann showed the cupboard is not completely bare behind Nathan Lyon with a maiden five-wicket haul to rout the Tigers in Townsville, Labuschagne, who made 136 in the first innings, took things up a notch.

In the search for quick runs, despite having a 302-run first innings lead, Labuschagne went in to T20 mode, smashing three sixes in a 37-ball 50. Labuschagne reached 60 not out, off 46 balls, with former Test opener Joe Burns unbeaten on 46, when Queensland captain Usman Khawaja declared with his team 438-runs in front.

The Bulls didn’t, however, have things their own way as the Tigers dug in for the fight, and only a late wicket hit a blistering start to their chase. Tasmania was 1-127 at stumps, with 311 runs to get in 96 over their final day target.

With test opener David Warner back in form at the T20 World Cup, potential opening partners Khawaja and Marcus Harris both making runs, and Cameron Green also scoring a half-century for WA, Australian selectors might be smiling.

After his day one run haul, Labuschagne said he wanted more.

“I’m always asking myself ways to get better, 130s are a good score and you’re not complaining about that but you want to make it into a big 180-plus score,” he said.

“They’re the sort of knocks that really put your team on the front foot (and) I certainly want to be making big scores.

“Obviously I missed out the first two games with a really big score, but I was able to spend some time (in the middle) and really found some rhythm out there.

“As a cricketer I don’t think anyone is really satisfied ever, it’s just one of those games.”

Kuhnemann‘s career-best figures of 5-60 to roll Tassie for 182 highlighted Queensland’s bowling depth as he took over from absent Mitchell Swepson, who took 32 Shield wickets last summer.

The Bulls were also without leading quicks Michael Neser and Mark Steketee but still had enough to take out a Tasmanian team coming off a last-start Shield win against Western Australia.

The Tigers fell apart after the early day three dismissal of topscorer Jordan Silk, losing 6-27 with three of those wickets going to Kuhnemann.

Fast bowler Gurinder Sandhu, playing his first Shield game for Queensland after stints with NSW and Tasmania, finished with figures of 3-44 in another promising showing.

UZZIE SHOWS ASHES HAND

Usman Khawaja may not be thinking about an international recall but Australian selectors might be after the Queensland skipper scored a second straight Sheffield Shield century to stake a solid Ashes claim.

The 34-year-old raced to the top of the Sheffield Shield run-scoring list as the Bulls batsman achieved a 20-year first with Matthew Renshaw also knocking out a hundred against Tasmania in Townsville.

It was the first time since 2006 that the number three, four and five batters for a team all scored centuries in a Shield game, coming after Test star Marnus Labuschagne made 136 on the opening day.

After scoring an epic 174 in his last Shield innings against South Australia, Khawaja, who played the last of his 44 Tests during the 2019 Ashes, said he refused to worry about selection any more. But he also declared he would bat anywhere if asked.

“People are always going to ask me about Test cricket, that’s fair enough, there is an Ashes coming up,” Khawaja said.

“But it’s not even in the forefront, I am just trying to win games for Queensland.”

His team was on the path to doing that, with Tasmania 4-150 at stumps, hoping a rearguard action from Jordan Silk (45 not out) and captain Beau Webster (20 not out) could keep them in the game.

Khawaja remained the standout performer and with Test opener David Warner’s first-choice batting partner Will Pucovski yet to pad up this season and Marcus Harris out for just nine in his first innings for Victoria, Khawaja has been put in the conversation as an experienced hand for the Ashes.

But a middle-order slot could also be up for grabs with the number five and six spots set to be filled by all-rounder cameron Green and a yet to be confirmed batsman.

Matthew Wade filled the role last summer against India, but was overlooked for the squad picked to tour South Africa, a tour which never happened.

Travis Head was recalled for that tour, but never got to strut his stuff and the South Australian has also reeled off a one-day double-hundred and a Shield innings of 163 this season to position himself for an Ashes berth.

But Khawaja’s output should ensure his name is in that Ashes conversation. Former national selector Mark Waugh said recently Khawaja had to be in the mix for a Test recall against England because of his experience.

He started the second day of the Sheffield Shield clash in Townsville not out on 63 and brought up his hundred off 165 balls after nearly being run out on 95.

He was eventually dismissed for 119 before lunch, going for quick runs with former Test opener Renshaw taking over, making 120 not out off just 167 balls before Queensland declared a 6-487.

After making an opening-day century of his own, Bulls and Test star Marnus Labuschagne said both Khawaja and Joe Burns, who made 79, were batting “beautifully”.

“Both those guys are probably two of my favourite guys to bat with. Both very different, but both very enjoyable to bat with,” Labuschagne said.

“I think they’re both batting beautifully. I thought Joe’s first innings last week in Adelaide was a very good innings.

“With Uzzie’s innings in the second innings of that game it was very good and he’s backed it up. He really put pressure on the spinners and didn’t let them settle, which is really good for a number four to be able to come in and do that straight away.”

RACE FOR THE ASHES

Usman Khawaja (Queensland) – 326 Sheffield Shield runs (4 innings), 2 x 100s, 12 one-day runs (1 innings) HS 12

Travis Head (South Australia) – 250 Sheffield Shield runs (4 innings) , 1 x 100; 277 one-day runs (3 innings), HS 230

Originally published as Sheffield Shield: Marnus Labuschagne made another half-century for Queensland as a new spin hero emerged




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Australian opener David Warner wants to open the batting with Will Pucovski when the Ashes starts in December



The race is on for Will Pucovski to get Ashes ready, and now he’s got the ultimate support to open for Australia.

Australian opener David Warner is all in on walking out to bat with Will Pucovski in the Ashes opener at the Gabba, labelling the young Victorian a “hell of a player”.

After just one Test together last summer against India, for partnerships of just six and 16, Warner declared 23-year-old Pucovski was “primed” for international cricket.

Pucovski is expected to make a playing return from a 10th concussion, suffered during training earlier in October, in Victoria’s Sheffield Shield clash with NSW at the MCG from November 5.

He should have two matches to show he’s ready for a return to the Test team, and everyone at Victoria who has watched him through the pre-season is adamant he’ll only need that much time to get into batting shape.

Warner said the selectors would have the final say, with Marcus Harris and potentially even Usman Khawaja in the discussion should Pucovski not come up. But the 35-year-old star knows who he wants to bat with.

“The selectors will pick the people who are in form, bring it down to who they think are the right two or three candidates, then make a decision,” Warner said.

“Looking back, Puck was in waiting, then he played (his one Test), then hurt his shoulder and he’s been recovering. But he’s a hell of a player, he’s primed and right for international cricket.

“If I was to make a judgment call, he’s the first person who is on the top of their list.”

Warner dismissed any issues over a combination of two left-handers if Pucovski isn’t available despite the damage veteran English fats bowler Stuart Broad did to the lefties in the 2019 Ashes.

Broad removed Warner seven times in 10 innings as the opener managed a mere 95 runs, only passing 11 once.

But Warner said things would be different in Australia.

“Australia is different when it comes to left-hand batting and the opposition,” he said.

“We know the conditions. I can’t see the ball reacting to the wicket like it did in England. In Australia you can leave a lot of balls on length, in England those length balls are hitting the stumps.

“It doesn’t worry me too much what the (opening) combination is. Whoever the selectors decide to choose, they will pick the person who is in form.”

Victorian coach Chris Rogers said as long as Pucovski looked “comfortable” when he made his batting return, he’d be ready to step back up to Test level

“The first thing you want to see is him playing well and be comfortable out in the middle, particularly playing the short ball. How many games they want to see that in, I can’t tell you that,” Rogers said.

“He can come out and get a 200 and walk into the Test team and get a 60. You know when you throw balls to him, it’s different, I think perhaps they just want to see him go out and look comfortable and them maybe they’ll be confident to pick him.

“If he went out and scored a big score, I’d definitely pick him.”

Originally published as Australian opener David Warner wants to open the batting with Will Pucovski when the Ashes starts in December




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