Australia’s Test squad: The batting contenders for a Baggy Green
Matthew Wade is a leading contender for a Test recall. @Getty

The statement of Australia’s Test captain Tim Paine last month that the leading run-getters of the ongoing 2018-19 Sheffield Shield are “seriously within reach” of a spot in Australia’s Test squad for the home summer opener against India has shone the spotlight on several contenders.

After four rounds of the Sheffield Shield, the top four batsmen are Tasmania’s Alex Doolan (444 at 55.50), Victorian Marcus Harris (437 at 87.40), discarded wicketkeeper-batsman Matthew Wade (412 at 82.50) and South Australia’s Tom Cooper (392 at 56). At fifth is Shaun Marsh with 362 from just two matches, which coupled with his ODI hundred recently puts him at the front of the line, ostensibly.

With Usman Khawaja not 100% for the first Test and Aaron Finch set to drop down the order after opening in the UAE, Australia’s batting is far from settled. Australia’s selectors are expected to sit this week to name the squad for the Test series against India starting December 6 in Adelaide.

Here’s a look at the Test hopefuls.

Shaun Marsh 

His place in Australia’s Test team under scrutiny after 12 innings without a fifty, Marsh this week delivered a timely reminder of his batting skills with an unbeaten 163 in a five-wicket win for Western Australia. Since returning to Australia after a poor Test series against Pakistan in the UAE, where he managed 7, 0, 3 and 4 to extend a lead phase dating back to the Ashes in January, Marsh has scored 80 and 98 in a seven-wicket Shield win over Tasmania followed by 22 and 106 in two ODIs against South Africa after being set back by an abscess on his buttock.

Shaun Marsh has been in fine form for WA in the Sheffield Shield.
Shaun Marsh has been in fine form for WA in the Sheffield Shield. @Getty

Where could he bat?

Marsh has batted at every position but eight, nine and eleven. He has had the most innings (22) at No 5 from where he has 936 runs at 42.54. He has 12 innings at No 3 and 4 each, with 308 and 294 runs an averages in the mid-20s. He could slot in at No 3 for the India series.

Matthew Wade

Wade, 30, has not played a Test for Australia since September 2017 with Paine a surprise recall later that year when England arrived for the Ashes. Wade was axed after averaging under 20 in 10 Tests since being called back in November 2016, and his return to Shield cricket began with scores of 1, 6, 9 and 17. However, strong scores as the season continued, as well as a dominant start to the current one,  have propelled him back into the reckoning as a specialist batsman.

Where could he bat?

If picked, Wade would feature as a specialist batsman because Paine will keep wickets. He could slot in at No 4,

Alex Doolan

Doolan, 32, played the last of his four Tests in 2014 and could find himself recalled. By his own admission he hasn’t got the vital hundreds required for selection, but innings of 115, 76, 53, 90 and 94 – apart from 10, 6 and 0 – indicate a man in form.

Alex Doolan played four Tests in 2014 with a best of 89
Alex Doolan played four Tests in 2014 with a best of 89. @Getty

Where could he bat?

A top-order batsman, Doolan is competing with Matt Renshaw and Harris for one of the opener’s spots. If Khawaja is not fit, Doolan could slot in as opener but also fits the bill for a one-down option.

Marcus Harris

The 26-year-old has made a strong start to the domestic season, highlighted by a unbeaten 250 against New South Wales. Since then, his scores have been 65, 7, 22 and 67. There is plenty of chatter about his skills and how he’s ready for Test cricket, with former Australia batsman Dean Jones telling CricketCountry recently that the Victorian batsman should be picked for his “phenomenal” run-scoring over the past few seasons.

Marcus Harris has made a strong start to the domestic season
Marcus Harris has made a strong start to the domestic season. © Twitter

Where could he bat?

An opener, Harris would be best suited to facing the hard ball. If Khawaja is picked, it is likely that he bats at No 3 so that opens up two spots ahead with Harris, Renshaw and Doolan the top three picks.

Peter Handscomb 

Handscomb, 27, has not been given a chance to add to his 13 Test caps since the ill-fated tour of South Africa in April where he was 12th man for the Newlands Test where the ball-tampering scandal broke.

He captained Victoria to the JLT One-Day cup title in October, in the process scoring 361 runs in seven innings at an average of 51.57, with four half-centuries. He was named Player of the Match in the final against Queensland for scoring 49 off 45 balls and taking four catches behind the stumps while marshalling his players superbly in a 110-run win. Since the Sheffield Shield got underway, Handscomb has made 27, 48, 123, 2, 4 and 23. Not great numbers, but Handscomb’s ability to play spin could see him brought back.

Peter Handscomb averaged 99.75 across his first four Test matches
Peter Handscomb averaged 99.75 across his first four Test matches. @Getty

Where could he bat?

A middle-order batsman, Handscomb could bat at 4, 5 and 6.

Tom Cooper

The South Australia batsman – who has played 23 ODIs and 18 T20Is for Netherlands – has scored the most hundreds (two) this Shield season. His name has not been taken in the same breath as the likes of Harris and Doolan, but Cooper has runs to his name.

Tom Cooper has played international cricket for the Netherland
Tom Cooper has played international cricket for the Netherlands. © Getty Images

Where could be bat?

The 31-year-old bats in the middle order for South Australia and could be a No 5 and 6 option for Australia is the selectors look past Travis Head and Marnus Labuschagne.