Sixty Six Sigma: South Australia’s Optimum Sheffield Shield XI

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lead image: The Adelaide Oval

The Argus Review into the performance of the Australian cricket team came to the conclusion that Australian Test performance would be best suited by having the best 66 cricketers consistently playing in First Class Cricket. Based on that logic, Ben Roberts with the help of Matt Wood, from the excellent Balanced Sports, are selecting each of the states’ optimum Sheffield Shield outfits. In the second of the series, South Australia get the treatment.

Sixty Six Sigma Part 1: Victoria’s Optimum Sheffield Shield XI

Openers: Michael Klinger and Aiden Blizzard

Klinger went from a popular choice for international selection to watching last year’s bottom-feeders. South Australia’s captain averaged only 23 with the bat last term despite having scored over 1200 runs the season before at 70. Probably at his age (31), he’s not on his last chance but is closing. Having brought so much to the Redbacks, he deserves the faith – at least initially – of State coach Darren “The Puff-Adder” Berry.

Forming an ex-Victoria opening pair with The Corporal is Aiden Blizzard. A full season in 2010/11 (something he would unlikely of gotten in Victoria) saw him to average 34 with two centuries. Nothing amazing in these figures, but competition is hardly stifling.

Number Three: Tom Cooper

The Netherlands’ own Tom Cooper is good enough to bat at number 3, but undersold his talent in 2010/11 by not converting his four half-centuries into big scores. Has globe trotted with the opportunity provided by his Dutch heritage, but remains eligible for Australian call-up. With the opportunities provided by such fortuitous citizenship, he could really benefit from a season or two playing county cricket. Not at all settled in the SA team, he will need to decide what he wants out of his career if he is to be a success.

Middle Order: Callum Ferguson and Daniel Harris

Ferguson is coming into the prime of his career and has delivered results at the limited over international level. With Australian cricket in danger of giving caps to the likes of David Warner*, this at least renders him a chance to make the Test lineup. His knee injury came at the most unfortunate time, but he is talented, young and still a top prospect. In the four matches he did play in 2010/11, he collected two centuries and has had a solid recent tour of Zimbabwe with the Australia A team.

Daniel Harris has built a lasting first-class career as the eleventh man picked for SA, recently the worst state side in Australia. His 2010/11 average of 36 was above his career mark of 31, so holds on to his middle order place. Should a loan system eventuate, Harris must fear for his spot behind more accomplished talents like John Hastings (given the history of Victorians and South Australians swapping – cf. Matthew Elliott, Paul Nobes, “Boof” Lehmann as well as coaches David Hookes and Darren Berry, don’t rule this one out).

All-Rounder: Dan Christian

The now-former Australian selection panel must have had cotton wool in their ears any time they visited SA. They must also have avoided watching any cricket matches, despite the fated Hilditch, Jamie Cox and Greg Chappell residing in-state.

There can’t be any other explanation for there complete ignorance of Dan Christian for the Australian limited over sides. Like James Hopes in Queensland, the all-rounder Christian often shoulders the load as his team battled and is not just suited to 50-over cricket despite his 2010/11 figures being below average.

Wicket-keeper: Tim Ludemann

Longtime incumbent – and Ashes representative – Graham Manou elected to call time on his first class career after the 2010/11 season. His understudy for the past three years, Tim Ludemann, has been solid but not spectacular. Ludemann gets the nod, but could be shifted easily. Another spot for potential loanees and with ‘keepers prone to moving (cf. Gilchrist, Haddin, Wade) for opportunity, Ludemann should fear for his spot.

Spinner: Nathan Lyon

South Australia could field three of Australian spin bowling’s “Next Big Things” – Cullen Bailey, Dan Cullen and Lyon. Two have international experience. Four matches for 12 wickets at 43 was clearly enough for him to be selected for the Australian team and this should ensure his position for this season at least, national call-ups notwithstanding. He and chief Australia rival Michael Beer (WA) offer varying styles, with Lyon able to attack and contain while Beer’s abilities ultimately result from his gangle.

Pacemen: Peter George, Gary Putland, and Kane Richardson

Thanks to a (mostly) injury free 2010/11, Peter George was the leading bowler for SA. Unfortunately, each sentence regarding his career now must be prefaced with how his body stood up the previous season. He has fallen back into the pack since his Test debut in India a couple of seasons back, but should be watched carefully as his height provides a completely different look from Australia’s current “hi-ho, hi-ho” pace attack.

Putland and Richardson only played five matches between them last year but their youth and speed makes them better selections than the older and well-travelled Ben Edmondson or Rob Cassell.

Who’s locked in?

Dan Christian shoulders a massive load and deserves his spot as a regular. If fit, Peter George’s great height is as bigger advantage as anyone has at the flat wicket Adelaide.

Callum Ferguson is a classy batsman, with enough grit to make the grade at the international level for the next 10 years.

What’s disappointing?

Michael Klinger. At the start of last year, he would have been locked in, but now potentially looks at a final fling at making more of his career. Tom Cooper’s career so far has been one of “coulda”; he is close to making that “could-woulda-shoulda”.

There are a number of spots are available. Unlike Queensland though, fast bowlers should look to SA – Ben Edmondson and Rob Cassell, mediocre talents at best – look likely to get games. That’s if those bowlers are happy to work at the Adelaide Oval.

Who’s next up – or alternatively, who’s loan bait?

Edmondson (RM), Cassell (RMF), Cameron Borgas (RHB), Aaron O’Brien (LHB/SLA), James Smith (RHB).

* I know we’ve linked to this before, but just want to ensure you understand the enormity of this. Australia has seriously considered calling David Warner – in effect, a baseball slugger – up to the Test squad. Probably on the basis of T20 form, reputation, temporary insanity and a case of terminal Hilditch-itis.

Previous Pieces in this series:

Sixty Six Sigma Part 1: Victoria’s Optimum Sheffield Shield XI


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