Pink balls, Dukes to feature in Australia's domestic season
BRISBANE, Australia (AP) Mitchell Starc will be among the bowlers pushing for test selection when Australia's first-class cricket season starts with four-day games under lights and using pink balls this week in preparation for the series against South Africa starting Nov. 3.
The Sheffield Shield season will feature pink-ball matches in Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth in preparation for two day-night tests over the summer: the last of the three-match series against South Africa Nov. 24-28 in Adelaide and the opener of the three-test series against Pakistan in Brisbane from Dec. 15-19.
In another longer-term equipment strategy, Cricket Australia confirmed plans to use the English-made Dukes ball instead of the regulation Kookaburra balls in the latter half of the Sheffield Shield season to allow players to adjust to the subtle differences ahead of the next Ashes series in England.
''We are always looking at ways to ensure our players have the best possible preparation ahead of upcoming series,'' Cricket Australia's head of cricket operations Sean Cary said in a statement Monday. ''This opportunity will give our players more experience to hone their batting and bowling skills with this ball, and will hopefully lead to more success in both home and away series.''
The Australian lineup is unsettled following a series of injuries, and low on confidence following a 3-0 test series defeat in Sri Lanka and a 5-0 loss in a limited-overs series in South Africa. The bowling attack was severely understrength in South Africa and needs pace spearhead Starc to get through New South Wales game against Queensland in Brisbane.
The left-arm paceman missed the ODI series in South Africa and badly lacerated his leg in a training accident last month and will be carefully monitored in the Shield opener.
Defending champion Victoria hosts Tasmania, giving Peter Siddle and Jackson Bird a chance to go head-to-head in pursuit of test selection, and Western Australia hosts South Australia in the other first-round match.