Ashes hopefuls hit with preparation roadblocks

A number of Test players could be given a red-ball lifeline, with NSW and Victoria hopeful of playing against each other later this month.

Neither NSW or Victoria have been able to start their Sheffield Shield matches this season, with closed borders leaving players stranded in their home states. 

That threatened to have dire implications for a host of players, who were facing the prospect of no red-ball cricket before the first Test on December 8.

That list is headlined by spinner Nathan Lyon, while Will Pucovski could desperately do with some cricket to regain his spot at the top of Australia’s order after being injured on debut.

Fellow Victorian Marcus Harris is the incumbent in Pucovski’s spot, while fit-again James Pattinson, Moises Henriques, and Sean Abbott also shape as hopefuls assuming the Ashes go ahead.

Players had offered to serve two weeks in quarantine without training before another two months on the road as part of submissions made to two states, however, they have since been rejected by governments.

A lifeline could loom in fixtures between NSW and Victoria in late October and early November as “freedom day” approaches for both states.

“We’re working really closely now with Cricket Australia and Cricket Victoria and our respective governments to try and get some games going against Victoria,” Cricket NSW head of performance Michael Klinger said.

“We will still be playing games around the same time that we would have been playing, if we did go interstate and hopefully with zero quarantine.

“So all it does really just means that we’re playing the same team.

“We’ve got two strong teams, people trying to vie for spots for the Ashes.

“It’s going to be potentially some really strong games if we can get it up and going.”

It’s hoped the matches could be played at the SCG or MCG, with up to as many as three Shield games and two one-day matches.

Just one Shield match has been played so far this season although Queensland, Tasmania, Western Australia and South Australia are all scheduled for action in the coming fortnight.

The NSW-Victoria fixtures won’t come before T20 World Cup players leave for the UAE, meaning Australia’s pace attack won’t play any red-ball cricket before the Ashes.

But it would come as welcome news for players from both states, who have faced the reality of a never-ending pre-season for months.

Six players from NSW have spent the past two-and-a-half months as nomads after travelling to Darwin for a tournament, since playing Premier cricket in Queensland.

Players from COVID-19 areas of concern have also been forced to train in local nets and send footage back to NSW coaches, given they cannot travel more than 5km for training.

“Whatever happens in next few months performance-wise I think they got to be given a lot of credit,” Klinger said.


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