Extra game could be Ashes secret weapon

Cricket Australia has scheduled a sixth round of Sheffield Shield games before the Big Bash starts to provide Test stars returning from the T20 World Cup potentially their only red-ball practice before the Ashes.

A full domestic calendar will be revealed on Wednesday with the large suite of Shield games set to give those Test players who don’t go to the World Cup in October and November a huge amount of Ashes preparation time.

Players including young guns Will Pucovksi and Cameron Green as well as fast bowlers like James Pattinson and Michael Neser, who is yet to make his Test debut, and spinner Nathan Lyon are set to get their fill of long-form cricket.

The Shield season will start in the last week of September to accommodate five rounds of Shield cricket before the opening Test against Afghanistan, which is scheduled to start on November 27.

But in a move which officials confirmed was “hedging our bets” about how far the Australians go in the World Cup the sixth round of games, which will start on November 28, could see some returning Test stars playing for their state and not their country.

The T20 World Cup final will be held on November 14, and the Australian team could feature first-choice Test players including Pat Cummins, David Warner, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc and even Josh Hazlewood.

But Australia’s last pool game is on November 7 and with all players set to complete 14-days in quarantine on arrival home, they could be parachuted straight in to the Shield game, while the Test is being played in Hobart, to give them some red-ball exposure.

The first Ashes Test starts on December 8.

“If the team goes all the way through the World T20, we’ll have some players preparing for the Ashes when they get back. We’re hedging our bets in that space,” Peter Roach, Cricket Australia’s Head of Cricket Operations, told NCA NewsWire.

“We want to prepare players for the six Tests. We acknowledge that some players in World T20, if they go deep, will be challenged to play that Afghanistan Test. So how best do we prepare them for the Ashes, and that’s in combination with the Shield.

“We are trying to give our players the best chance to prepare for the one-off Test against Afghanistan and the Ashes.”

Mitchell Starc is one bowler set to head to the T20 World Cup (Photo by Randy Brooks / AFP)Source:AFP

Starc, in the West Indies with the one-day team, said he was hopeful players would be able to train while in quarantine after the World Cup, as they did after returning from last year’s white-ball tour of the UK.

“It’s something I was involved in during the two weeks we had in Adelaide after the UK tour,” he said last weekend.

“I’m aware that period could look like, it’s almost overlap or straight out of quarantine into red-ball cricket.

“There’s a lot of water to go under the bridge in terms of organisation. Test cricket is still the pinnacle, certainly in my eyes. Hopefully we can sneak both a World Cup and a Test match.”

The domestic summer is set to return to a full 31 match Shield competition, and 22-game one-day tournament, which will start in early September.

The full Women’s National Cricket League season will start on September 23.

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