Abbott ton complicates selection debate

Rob Forsaith
·3-min read

Selection pressure on incumbent Test opener Joe Burns intensified as an intriguing battle to be Australia's premier allrounder continued in the Sheffield Shield hub.

Young gun Cameron Green was expected to be part of an enlarged Test squad but Sean Abbott's maiden first-class ton and another century from Moises Henriques has given national selectors plenty to think about.

Chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns and national coach Justin Langer were keen to stick with an unchanged top six for the first Test, having publicly preached the value of stability for most of the year.

However, Burns is now at risk of being dropped after logging scores of 7, 29, 0, 10 and 11 during an underwhelming start to the Shield season.

That alone would not be enough to force a change.

Langer made it clear he wants it to be "harder to get into the team than out of it", while Hohns noted a fortnight ago he didn't "envisage too much pressure being exerted on any of the incumbents immediately".

But the timing of Burns' struggles, which deepened when a mistimed pull shot resulted in his caught-behind dismissal against South Australia on Tuesday, could hardly be poorer for the Queenslander.

Would-be debutant Will Pucovski has scored 255 not out and 202 while opening for Victoria, putting his hand up to get the nod to bat alongside David Warner against India.

Pucovski hasn't been alone in scoring freely during a run-laden start to the competition.

Abbott reached three figures late on day three of NSW's clash with Tasmania, making it a total of 29 centuries from 10 Shield games in the Adelaide hub.

In sharp contrast, a total of 39 hundreds were scored in each of the previous two Shield seasons.

Henriques, who like Green is on the selectors' radar and was included in Australia's limited-overs squad, scored 113 on Tuesday in what was his second ton of the season.

The veteran was upstaged by Blues teammate Abbott, who picked an ideal moment to produce his maiden first-class century.

"I was obviously nervous, a bit twitchy," Abbott said.

"But they had fielders out and part-time bowlers.

"Once they brought the field in when I was on 99 or whatever, it was a bit more nerve racking."

Abbott almost ended his career-best knock on 94, when he chipped a return catch back to Beau Webster that was dropped, but settled to finish 102 not out when Blues skipper Peter Nevill declared.

Abbott has scored 261 runs this season, while he has defied some flat pitches to snare 14 wickets at 14.

National selectors are likely to back middle-order batsmen Travis Head and Matthew Wade for the first Test against India.

But they will almost certainly be keen to call up an allrounder during a series that features a four-day break between the first and second Tests then a three-day turnaround between the third and fourth Tests.

Mitch Marsh is yet to return from an ankle injury.

Green, who Greg Chappell anointed the best Australian batting talent since Ricky Ponting, captured attention with a recent knock of 197 for Western Australia against NSW.