Shield hub a unique prelude to Test summer

Rob Forsaith
·2-min read

Former Test paceman Trent Copeland believes a promising start to a unique Sheffield Shield season will hold Australian cricket in good stead for this summer and beyond.

National selectors will soon pick a Test squad for Australia's highly-anticipated series against India, with an enlarged group of 17 set to make the cut because of COVID-19 protocols.

The Shield round beginning on Sunday, which includes a showdown between arguably the nation's two most exciting uncapped prospects in Victoria batsman Will Pucovski and Western Australia allrounder Cameron Green, is the final chance for players to add to their selection case.

NSW are taking on Tasmania, while incumbent Test opener Joe Burns will be keen for a big score in Queensland's clash with South Australia.

There were fears about the standard of the competition last month, when state squads were shuttled into an Adelaide hub to play first-class cricket on grade grounds after poor preparation.

But Pucovski, Green and many others have demanded the attention of selectors with impressive big scores, while Copeland's match-changing 5-17 from 18 overs has been among several eye-catching hauls.

It suggests the depth that national coach Justin Langer has long craved is returning - and is also a sign of players' adaptability.

"Guys are sticking their hands up with difficult and limited preparation, being thrown into quarantine, bubbles," Copeland said.

"They have still been able to, when you walk out to the middle, lose all that and just focus on the challenge at hand.

"The challenges are going to prepare players really well for foreign conditions, when you're out of your comfort zone.

"It's a very different prelude to a Test summer, but could be a really valuable one ... throughout my career, Shield cricket has just been so bloody important as to how we perform as a national team."

There have already been 19 centuries from seven Shield games this season.

Former Test batsman Shaun Marsh, who has posted two tons for WA in the Adelaide hub, feels the challenge of getting into the Test team has arguably never been harder during his career.

"No doubt. It's great to see so many players scoring runs," Marsh said.

"The wickets have probably been flat, but you've still got to go out there and get them.

"There's been some big scores, which I'm sure Justin and the selection panel would be happy about."

The 37-year-old Marsh, who is captaining his state in the absence of injured brother Mitch, was suitably impressed with the record-breaking opening partnership by Pucovski and Marcus Harris against the Redbacks.

"It was pretty special. We were listening and watching," he said.

"We'll have to come up with some ideas to try to get them out."