Wade, Head lead strong Australian batting display

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As all of England held its breath (or watched Wimbledon and F1 at Silverstone), Australia’s XI and the England Lions played a day’s cricket at Canterbury that was something closer to a gentle sigh.

Away from Lord’s and the World Cup final, there were regular score updates and television screens to be found if required, but in the middle, the Australians maintained their run of muscular batting performances, this time against far stronger opposition.

There was yet another century from Matthew Wade, his third on this trip alone, and a second of the tour for Travis Head, who among the raft of contenders trying to join Steven Smith, David Warner and Usman Khawaja over the next couple of weeks in Canterbury and Southampton, looks the most certain member of Australia’s top six for the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston starting August 1.

A good deal of merit could be attached to these runs. They were made in conditions so favourable that Lions’ captain Lewis Gregory sent the Australians in after morning rain. This was also against a bowling attack far superior to anything he’s faced so far this summer.

In Sam Curran, there was a left-armer who may yet figure in the Ashes after his strong displays against India last year, while Gregory and Jamie Porter are two of Division One’s leading lights. Ollie Robinson and Jack Leach completed a more than sturdy quintet, albeit with only rudimentary preparation for operating as a group given the Lions only assembled on Friday night and had a solitary training session before the opening day.

Curran, Gregory and Porter could all be moderately happy with their work, as Robinson and Leach faced somewhat more punishment. Leach’s day was perhaps made more vexing by the fact he was not once able to bowl to a right-hander all day.

The early going was not easy, as Joe Burns found when he was pinned lbw by Gregory after finding a trio of early boundaries but also offering a half chance to slip. Marcus Harris looked to be judging the whereabouts of his off stump very well in fighting his way to 34 before furnishing Gregory with a second wicket, feeling for a ball going across him and taken in the slips. And Kurtis Patterson was dropped in the cordon before going on to 32, whereupon his forward defensive stroke was punctured by Porter from around the wicket.

Head, noticeably, found the best rhythm of the top four. He rotated strike and found the boundary regularly without resorting to any of the wilder shots that prevented his home Test series against India last summer from reaching the heights that several of his starts hinted at. Reaching 50 in 70 balls and a century in 147, he offered a stern celebration towards the touring team’s viewing area before resuming an occupation that would last all day and accumulate 20 boundaries.

Wade’s innings was more a case of acceleration, as he spent 47 balls over his first 15 runs then just 75 balls for the next 85 to reach three figures. The boundaries were clattered 15 times and cleared once, with the stand only ended when Curran won an lbw verdict against Wade with the second new ball.

Wade’s stand with Head was worth 219, leaving Mitchell Marsh to accompany the South Australia captain to stumps early enough for the closing passages at Lord’s to be viewed by both sides.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig

ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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