Waugh stokes fire for Ashes allrounder battle

Australian selector Mark Waugh has promoted a virtual Sheffield Shield bat-off among candidates for the No.6 spot in the Test line-up ahead of the upcoming Ashes against England.

 

While Matthew Wade's position as wicketkeeper remains up in the air, nearly half a dozen candidates are vying to fill the allrounder role when the series gets underway at the Gabba on November 23.

Bangladesh tourists Glenn Maxwell, Hilton Cartwright and Ashton Agar are joined by the uncapped Marcus Stoinis and Travis Head as options for the middle-order berth.

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Mitchell Marsh has returned from his shoulder reconstruction for Western Australia but only as a batsman, with the 21-Test veteran yet to begin bowling.

With few genuine allrounders available, Waugh said the selection panel will look at who performs best with the bat in the first three matches of the Sheffield Shield, which begins with a pink-ball round on October 26.

"The No.1 priority is batting," Waugh said on Sky Sports Radio.

Who will it be: Cartwright, Maxwell, Stoinis or Head? Pic: Getty

"I'm not calling it an allrounder. It's probably more a batting allrounder.

"You're getting your best batsman anyway and if they can bowl a bit that's a bonus."

The Shield returns to the red ball for rounds beginning on November 4 and 13.

Steve Smith, Pat Cummins, Peter Handscomb, Agar and Wade left the current limited-overs tour of India early, while Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood did not take part due to prior injuries.

David Warner, Maxwell, Head and Stoinis remain in the subcontinent for the series-deciding T20 on Friday.

Waugh, who is in India with the side, would have preferred all players had more time at home to rest and prepare for the Shield.

"It's got to be said, it's not an ideal time to be away from Australia," Waugh said.

"Once they get home, they'll have a little break then they'll be back focused on red-ball cricket, then the Ashes.

"The players are pretty much used to it. it's probably more the travelling, flying around. This one-day tournament and T20 tournament has been to about eight different places, so there's been a lot of travel. But I think they're coping pretty well.

"Obviously Steve Smith going home might be a blessing in disguise, a bit of a freshen-up. He's got a heavy workload, as do a lot of the players. We'll be right. Those three Shield matches will have us in good stead for the Ashes."

with AAP

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