Will Pucovski tipped to take Joe Burns’ Test opening spot after another ton for Victoria

Invincible Victorian Will Pucovski sealed Test squad selection with a masterpiece ton against Western Australia as incumbent opener Joe Burns’ run drought continued in Adelaide.

Unbeaten Pucovski’s sixth first-class century (183) at Karen Rolton Oval followed an undefeated, career-best 255 against South Australia last week as the race intensifies for Test spots in the final Sheffield Shield round before Australia faces India.

Former Australian skipper Kim Hughes believes Pucovski should open with David Warner in the Test series against India starting in Adelaide next month. Queenslander Burns is averaging 11.5 across four innings with a top score of 29 for Queensland this season.

“He seems to have got those mental challenges sorted out. I would pick Pucovski,” Hughes told ABC Grandstand.

“He is in a good space”.

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Mr Pucovski 😍#vicsdoitbetter pic.twitter.com/pKjyjOsFs6

"A king in the making!" 👑#SheffieldShield pic.twitter.com/xnXKPdqpfh

Forced to cool his heels for two weeks in quarantine due to Victoria’s prolonged COVID-19 crisis, Pucovski has required just two knocks to cannon into first Test contention. Promoted to open by coach Chris Rogers this season, Pucovski leads the Shield run tally with 438 runs while Test batsman Travis Head is second on 418 at 83.

Pucovski took 22 balls to score then never looked back, exhibiting time in shot selection reserved for the game’s elite. Severe off his pads, Pucovski’s bevy of cuts and pulls left a WA attack, deprived of rested Ashton Agar, with no riposte as Victoria finished 1/322 on the opening day.

Skipper Peter Handscomb (49) resumes a 136-run partnership with Pucovski having been dropped on 31 by Cam Bancroft at second slip off Cameron Gannon.

The beauty of Pucovski for national selectors is an ability to bat anywhere in the top six as they compile an extended 17-man Test squad for the Border-Gavaskar series. Pucovski eluded the WA field striking 25 boundaries.

Marcus Harris (71) was again overshadowed despite posting an opening stand of 186 with Pucovski which was well short of their Sheffield Shield record stand of 486 against the Redbacks last round. Harris exited to a catch of the season contender from a flying, diving Sam Whiteman off Matt Kelly.

Uncapped prodigies – Pucovski and exciting allrounder Cameron Green – were watched closely by chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns who was surrounded by an array of notebooks and trusty computer. Green will be a “world class” allrounder and should occupy a middle order slot at Matthew Wade’s expense says Hughes.

Green (0-15, eight overs), with 307 runs at 76 this season, has just resumed bowling from back stress fractures but was sharp and the pick of WA’s attack. Green’s effortless action delivered from a 200cm height troubled Harris in the first session. WA skipper Shaun Marsh would have bowled Green more if not for the 21-year-old’s bowling restriction.

BURNS SLUMP CONTINUES BUT KHAWAJA PROSPERS

Joe Burns’ form slump continued but Usman Khawaja jump-started his quest for a Test recall with an imperious century against South Australia at Glenelg.

Australian opener Burns (10) fell inside edging a drive at swingman Daniel Worrall (1-77) to keeper Harry Nielsen as Queensland reached 4/331 by stumps against the Redbacks.

Victorian opener Will Pucovski’s incredible 438 run spree in two innings has placed pressure on Burns to produce in Queensland’s second innings with national chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns present in Adelaide. Burns has 1379 runs in 21 Tests but is averaging 11.5 this season. The benefit of incumbency is clouded with Australia’s last Test against New Zealand in January.

Ashes discard Khawaja (131) had struggled for scores of 4, 4 and 41 this season and remains back in the queue of candidates to face India but impressed with trademark timing and strokeplay against the Redbacks.

Joe Burns was out cheaply in a worrying sign for his Test prospects.Source:Getty Images

Skipper Khawaja, 33, believes he has more to give in the baggy green and finally backed his case with a 29th first-class ton featuring 20 boundaries and two ruthless sixes off leg-spinner Lloyd Pope. Khawaja put on 128 with third-wicket partner Bryce Street (38) then 108 alongside unbeaten Matt Renshaw (84).

“Khawaja batted very well but thankfully we got him later in the day,” said Wes Agar (1-60) who tempted an edge from the Queensland skipper to Callum Ferguson at first slip before stumps.

“We know we have to grind.”

One-Test paceman Chadd Sayers ensured Test No.3 Marnus Labuschagne (0) recorded consecutive ducks after twin tons in a feast or famine preparation to face India.

Bryce Street (38) had smashed Lloyd Pope to the boundary before exiting to an exceptional, reflex catch by Henry Hunt at short leg.

Former Test left-hander Matt Renshaw and keeper-batsman Jimmy Peirson (60) will pursue a mammoth first innings total on day two.

New South Wales all out for 64!

Cricket: The Tasmanian Tigers pace attack had a field day against the Blues running through New South Wales to dismiss them for their third lowest total in the team’s history.

BLUES FOR NSW

Former Test seamers Jackson Bird and Peter Siddle consigned New South Wales to its third lowest Sheffield Shield total as the Tasmania dominated the opening day in Adelaide.

Bird (4/14) and Siddle (3/17) were unstoppable on a strip with true bounce and carry as the Blues were rolled for 44. Test spearhead Mitch Starc top scored with 18 in a 21-run stand with Sean Abbott (15) which highlighted a disappointing Blues effort.

NSW and Test spinner Nathan Lyon said his side’s capitulation had the hallmarks Nottingham’s 2015 Ashes Test when Australia folded for 60.

“It was a tough day against two experienced guys who have played a lot of Test cricket. It was a bit funny in the warm up I said to Mitch Starc it had a similar feeling to Trent Bridge 2015,” said Lyon.

The Tigers (4/149) take an 85-run first innings lead into day two after Australian one-day paceman Sean Abbott removed key duo Matt Wade (10) and Ben McDermott (18).

Jordan Silk (64) and night-watchman Siddle (4) resume on day two where Starc (1-48) will be fine-tuning for battle against Virat Kohli’s India.

“We have seen if there is anything in this wicket it is in the first couple of hours so that is why we won the toss and bowled but we didn’t see that happening,” said Bird.

“It was a great team bowling performance. There was a bit more bounce, swing and seam and we got the ball in the right area. It was a great effort from our guys.”

Originally published asPucovski piles pressure on Burns in race for Test berth

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