The opening four rounds of the Sheffield Shield have provided some fascinating cricket entertainment, with a number of Test hopefuls making a big impression ahead of the Australian summer. Queensland lead the table with two wins from their opening three games, while South Australia sit at the bottom of the standings having suffered two defeats and two draws after four matches. Will Pucovski leads the run-charts after a record-breaking start to the season. And rather surprisingly, spinner Mitchell Swepson has taken the most wickets so far, with 23 scalps to his name.
Here we take a look at the five players who have been the best performers in the Sheffield Shield after the first four rounds of the tournament.
Will Pucovski has enjoyed a stellar start to the season, and unsurprisingly finds himself at the top of this list. The Victoria opener has been breaking records left, right and centre, and has an incredible 495 runs to his name after just three innings. In Victoria’s opening game of the tournament, Pucovski shared a 486 run stand for the first wicket with Marcus Harris. The duo broke the 20 year old record for the highest ever partnership in Sheffield Shield history, previously held by Steve and Mark Waugh, who registered a 464 run partnership while batting for New South Wales in 1990. Pucovski finished with an unbeaten 255, becoming only the third player to score two double centuries before reaching the age of 23.
But the right-hand batsman wasn’t done yet, as he hit another double hundred in Victoria’s second game, becoming the first player to hit back-to-back double tons in the Shield since the 1997-98 season. Pucovski’s exceptional form has been rewarded with a call-up to Australia’s Test squad for the upcoming series against India. And don’t be surprised if he finds himself opening the batting in the first Test at Adelaide next month.
From the best batsman of the season so far, to the best bowler – Mitchell Swepson is the top wicket taker of the Sheffield Shield, with 23 wickets in just three matches. The leg break spinner has been in the form of his life for Queensland, and his performances have played a vital role in helping the Bulls climb up to the top of the Sheffield Shield table.
Swepson took five wickets in the opening game against Tasmania (including four in the second innings) to help set up an innings win for his side. He then followed it up with his maiden 10-wicket haul in first class cricket, as he took five wickets in each innings in their narrow defeat to New South Wales. There was no stopping Queensland against South Australia though, with Swepson leading the charge thanks to his eight wickets.
Like Pucovski, Swepson too, has been called up to the Australia set-up. He has come close to earning the Baggy Green on a number of occasions, and he will hoping for the Sydney Cricket Ground to offer a slow track this summer so he can finally end his long wait.
Sean Abbott was considered to be the next best thing in Australian cricket after his breakthrough for New South Wales in 2014. Six years later, he is developing into one of the country’s most versatile all-round players. The 28 year old has been enjoying an excellent season in the Sheffield Shield, with both bat and ball.
Abbott has scored 261 runs in five innings so far this season, with two 50s and one hundred to his name. Batting at number seven, he has scored more runs than the likes of Usman Khawaja, Tim Paine and Matthew Wade. He has been just as affective with the ball, with his nipping seamers causing batsmen all sorts of problems. Abbott has taken 14 wickets at an average of 17.92, and is third in the charts for the leading wicket takers.
Australia have long been looking for an all-rounder who can shine with both bat and ball in all three formats of the game. And Abbott’s performances in the Sheffield Shield this season have proven that he deserves to get a chance to show his quality.
Past it? Not by a long shot. Shaun Marsh may well be 37, but he has shown in this season’s Sheffield Shield that class is permanent. The Western Australia captain has been in as good as form as we’ve ever seen from him, scoring three hundreds and one fifty in six innings. With 485 runs to his name and an average of 97, he is the second highest scorer in the Shield as of this writing. He has oozed quality with the bat in hand, and his stylish stroke-play has been a real throwback to some of his best knocks for Australia.
A return to the national team set-up doesn’t appear to be likely for the veteran batsman, but at the moment Marsh is showing no signs of stopping anytime soon.
Cameron Green could be set for a breakthrough season for Australia, and he has certainly made a bright start with impressive displays for Western Australia in the Sheffield Shield. The tall all-rounder began his summer with a fifty in the first innings. He then followed it up with a mammoth hundred against an impressive New South Wales bowling line-up, and came just three runs short of getting to 200.
The 21 year old then hit another half-century in the fourth round of fixtures, and also returned to bowling after injury troubles prevented him from doing so last season. He took two wickets in the draw against Tasmania, showing why he is one of the country’s most highly regarded prospects. Green has been named in the squads for both the Test and limited-overs series, and chances are that we will see him in Australia colours before too long.
His performances have drawn comparisons with Ricky Ponting, and the early signs in the Sheffield Shield have been more than promising.