Ashes 2019: What to make of the Derbyshire tour match?

What impact will the Three Day Tour Match on Australia’s XI for the Fourth Test?

Day Two of the Three Day Derbyshire tour match has completed, thankfully without a hint of rain, and it looks headed for a probable result, with Australia a very good chance of winning, perhaps by an innings. The question is what it means as far as 4th test contentions mean.

One part of the purpose of the tour match was to see if Steve Smith would be okay. Nobody really cared too much about how many runs he scored so much as they wanted to know if he still had concussion symptoms. They wanted to see how he fielded and how he batted to see if he coped. According to reports, he was fine. The only problem is that he only lasted 38 balls and 47 minutes before he was out, which may not be enough of a hitout to be confident that he could cope with the rigours of a test match environment, where he may be required to bat an entire day, if not longer. He immediately went out into the nets for an extended net session.

The apparent shootout between Usman Khawaja and Matthew Wade didn’t really happen, with Khawaja opening the batting and finishing on an impressive 72 before he was clean bowled. Matthew Wade, batting at 5, behind Mitchell Marsh even, managed just 12.

Any thoughts of Cameron Bancroft returning seemed to be shot as Khawaja declared on him, with Bancroft still notout on a rather unimpressive 36, the most meaningless of meaningless runs, and he didn’t even get to celebrate any milestones, suggesting that Bancroft won’t be playing at Old Trafford in another capacity.

Marcus Harris, the incumbent opener, scored an impressive 64 being runout, and was probably the most impressive of the three batsmen who hit 50s, the other being Mitchell Marsh, who just keeps scoring runs and taking wickets in all of the practice games and may yet be in genuine contention. Perhaps not for the 4th test, though a loss in the test may see Mitchell Marsh a genuine chance of playing in the 5th.

On the bowling front, Mitchell Starc and Michael Neser each took 3 wickets in the first innings before Starc came in to take 2 more in the second, removing the last hints of criticism about his position in the test. Peter Siddle took a wicket too.

It seems unlikely that day 3 will matter, as the XI for Old Trafford is surely settled, but with how coach Justin Langer has been handling this series, we can expect yet another instance of the XI being named just minutes before play begins, with barely a hint of what it might be beforehand, much to the annoyance of pundits.

Perhaps Mitchell Marsh and Michael Neser will end up playing the test after all. It’s probably the only way we can justify leaving Mitchell Starc out again. If they do play, this is the likely XI:

  1. David Warner
  2. Usman Khawaja
  3. Marnus Labuschagne
  4. Steve Smith
  5. Travis Head
  6. Mitchell Marsh
  7. Michael Neser
  8. Tim Paine
  9. Pat Cummins
  10. Josh Hazlewood
  11. Nathan Lyon

It’s an awkward-looking XI, but it might just be one that might work. More likely, though, they will stick with the traditional balance and go with this:

  1. David Warner
  2. Marcus Harris
  3. Usman Khawaja
  4. Steve Smith
  5. Marnus Labuschagne
  6. Travis Head
  7. Tim Paine
  8. Pat Cummins
  9. Mitchell Starc
  10. Josh Hazlewood
  11. Nathan Lyon

It would seem that those are our two options. Surely we won’t go with the all-round option, certainly not going with two introduced at once.

Mind you, England have enough all-rounders that seem to work, and perhaps we might think that, in Mitchell Marsh and Neser, we have at least one Ben Stokes, if not two.

But perhaps not.

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