New South Wales allrounder Sean Abbott has been endorsed as “ready as anyone” for a Test call-up by team-mate Trent Copeland after an impressive start to the Sheffield Shield season.
Abbott, 28, is already part of Australia’s limited-overs set-up having returned last season and has since been included for the England tour and now the visit of India later this month without yet adding to his caps.
Australia will name an enlarged Test squad next week and will need seam-bowling support for the big four of Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and James Pattinson, but it’s the all-round package Abbott provides that could make him valuable.
He has scored two half-centuries this season, and also saw New South Wales across the line for a one-wicket win against Queensland, while taking ten wickets on pitches not conducive to pace bowling. His career batting average remains below 20, but the significant work he has put in is starting to bring rewards – last season he averaged 33.28 and has carried his form into this summer.
“It’s been really impressive to watch him go about his business with bat and ball. The hard work he’s put into his batting paying off,” Copeland said. “It’s a real value add for the guy who can play in a Test team and bat at seven or eight when we want to go with a certain balance. It means you are not a direct comparison to Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood or Mitch Starc.
“I’ve no doubt he’s ready to be in the Test hub if that was to come his way. His bowling, as a cricket nuffy myself, his planning and execution, his ability to go over and around the wicket and be exactly on the money, bumpers around the wicket, he’s become a very well-rounded bowler at a good pace and he stands the seam up perfectly. He’s as ready as anyone else if need be.”
Copeland, who now combines playing with being a TV analyst, also believes the first part of the Sheffield Shield season, which has been played in an Adelaide hub and has seen a considerable number of eye-catching performances, will stand players in good stead for higher honours.
“I think the challenges will prepare players really well for foreign conditions, when you are out of your comfort zone playing a Test match where you aren’t used to those conditions and being able to find a way to contribute.
“It’s a very different prelude to a Test summer but think it could be a really valuable one in guys sticking their hand up with difficult or limited preparation, being thrown into quarantine, bubbles and still being able to walk out lose all of that and focus on the challenge ahead.”
Copeland, who will play his 100th first-class match on Sunday against Tasmania, enjoyed a memorable outing against Queensland with an outstanding second-innings performance that was noted around the world: at one stage he had 5 for 6 in 14 overs as he took out a strong top order, including Joe Burns and Marnus Labuschagne for ducks.
He accepts his chance of adding to the three Test caps earned against Sri Lanka in 2011 has probably passed him by, although he is convinced he could have played a role in recent years.
“I’ve thought back at different stages, certainly the last Ashes, I thought I was at the peak of my powers and could have offered something to the squad at different stages, but I’m not the one tasked with making those decisions and they have every right to be making them. Certainly there’s no hard feelings.
“It’s one of those things, I look back at that [playing for Australia] so fondly, those guys who came along to displace me are pretty bloody good. The four guys around the Test team now all came onto the scene when I got dropped. I’m incredibly grateful to have played in one Test series, we won, on the subcontinent. I’m bloody proud of that.”
Reflecting on his spell against Queensland, he said: “A lot of the time you’ll have a good five, maybe seven, over spell where everything goes perfectly, and you might take one or two wickets, but that was a rare day where everything went right for the whole day.
“The context of the game, the fact the wicket had got pretty flat and wasn’t doing a lot for the seamers…all of that together was a special little moment in my career.”
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