Matthew Renshaw missed a great chance to push his case.
Matthew Renshaw missed a great chance to push his case.

Handscomb throws hat back into ring for Tests

Australia's Test batting line-up is no clearer after aspiring opener Marcus Harris failed and reborn Victorian Peter Handscomb fired against Queensland on Tuesday.

Harris failed to lock up a baggy green debut against India in Adelaide next week after falling for two on the first day of the Sheffield Shield match at the Gabba.

On the other hand, Handscomb notched an impressive 81 in testing conditions to strengthen his claims for a middle order recall.

A round of matches which was supposed to give national coach Justin Langer some clarity ahead of the Test summer may end up raising more questions than answers.

Handscomb's last appearance in the Test arena was during the infamous South Africa tour in March when he effectively replaced banned captain Steve Smith at No. 4 following the ball-tampering scandal.

But a century for Victoria earlier this month caught the eye of selectors and earned a spot in Australia's 14-man squad for the India series.

Peter Handscomb impressed against Queensland.
Peter Handscomb impressed against Queensland.

Handscomb was considered an outside chance of playing in Adelaide next week, but yesterday's knock strengthened his hopes of sneaking into the middle order.

Harris and Finch are the ideal Test opening partnership, but Langer could opt to retain preferred No. 3 Khawaja at the top of the order following his excellent performances against Pakistan.

Handscomb said he had refined his game after being dropped during last summer's Ashes series.

"I'm enjoying my game, having some fun and backing my skills in," he said.

"It is a nice feeling to know I'm still being thought of and haven't been pushed aside.

"To come back in there (Test squad) on the back of some nice performances…it's good to see they're backing me in and hopefully I can reward their support with a few runs.

Marcus Harris was dismissed cheaply. (Photo by Albert Perez/Getty Images)
Marcus Harris was dismissed cheaply. (Photo by Albert Perez/Getty Images)

"I unfortunately missed out after two games (in the Ashes) last year and batting under lights in Adelaide. That was a bit of a disappointing moment, but I'd like to think that means something.

"I'm just part of the squad and I daresay they will find the (Test) XI after this round. We'll wait and see what happens."

Victoria were all out for 167 in 57.2 overs, with Handscomb and Aaron Finch (50) the only Bushrangers batsmen to reach double figures.

Ironically, Victoria's insistence on batting Finch at No. 3 despite his Test opening spot backfired when opener Travis Dean was bowled by Michael Neser for a duck in the first over.

Harris and Finch only spent 17 balls together as Bulls quicks Mark Steketee (4-52), Neser (3-39) and Luke Feldman (2-38) made the most of the green-tinged wicket after Queensland won the toss.

After Harris' failure, Bulls opener Renshaw had a golden opportunity to show selectors why they should have recalled him for the India series, but the towering Queenslander was out for two off the bowling of Test squad member Chris Tremain (2-20).

Renshaw's opening partner Joe Burns gave selectors a reminder of his talent as he raced to 71 not out, sending spinner Jon Holland over the ropes three times.

 

Burns has averaged 45 in the Shield this season and could count himself unlucky to not be in the Test squad after being briefly recalled for one match following the ball-tampering drama.

Bulls captain Khawaja was kicking himself in his return from knee surgery after feathering Tremain down the leg side for 41 (86) to leave Queensland 2-120 at stumps.