The main focus of Australian sports fans, over the last few weeks, has been on The Ashes.
But with no game this week, cricket fans will have turned their attention to the two sides with players fighting to be in the next XI. In England, an Australian side is taking on Sussex in a Tour match, while an Australia A side is taking on South Africa A in Pretoria.
The Tour match being played at Hove has so far had notable performances from Phil Hughes, who has struggled in all but one Ashes innings this summer, and Ed Cowan, who was dropped after the First Test.
This pair opened the batting and gave the selectors something to chew over as they put on 150 runs for the first wicket. The 35 over partnership ended when Cowan was well caught by the deputising James Taylor for 66.
Hughes went for 84 just 17 runs later as the Sussex bowlers looked to pull themselves back into the game, but a strong partnership between Usman Khawaja, who replaced Cowan in the Test side, and Steve Smith put Australia in control. Khawaja was removed by Monty Panesar for 40, but at the time of writing the tourists are still in command.
Meanwhile in South Africa, the Australia A side, the equivalent of the England Lions, were being led by Aaron Finch, and featured in their midst David Warner who hasn’t played since he landed that now infamous punch on Joe Root.
Captain Finch showed that conditions were good for batting with a strong half-century before Warner came to the middle and showed his class. He hit the ball to all parts of the ground on a batsman’s paradise.
He shared partnerships of 73 with Finch (51), 76 with Moises Henriques (33) and then 204 with Glenn Maxwell (155*). Maxwell and Warner are known for their big hitting, and with both of them having strikes rates in the high 80’s the scoring was never slow. Australia eventually declared on 474-5, with Kyle Abbott the most productive bowler.
In reply, Reeza Hendricks and Dean Elgar put on 97 as the home side looked to also take advantage of the favourable conditions. After Hendricks was dismissed a couple of quick wickets fell before captain Justin Ontong (60) and Elgar rebuilt the innings with a century stand.
After Vaughn van Jaarsveld went the score stood on 283-5, but then Elgar and new partner Thami Tsolekile put together a Warner-Maxwell type partnership. Together the pair put on 267 with Elgar passing 200 and 250 before he was eventually removed for 268.
Tsolekile, who lacks Elgar’s international experience, reached his 150 before giving Fawad Ahmed his third wicket with nine more runs to his name. At the time of writing, at stumps on day three, South Africa A lead by 140 runs with just the one day remaining.
The couple of games are certainly giving the Australian selectors something to think about, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Dave Warner in the side for the next Ashes Test at Old Trafford thanks to his masterful innings.
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