Quiney sees his window narrowing
A week after he made what the coach Mickey Arthur joked was the best 9 he had ever seen, Rob Quiney knows that another low score in the Adelaide Test will be no laughing matter. Quiney kept his place in Australia's squad for the second Test against South Africa, which begins on Thursday, and his chances of playing appear strong, with Shane Watson facing a difficult challenge to prove his fitness in time.
On debut at the Gabba, Quiney got off the mark in Test cricket by pulling Dale Steyn through midwicket from his first ball and he appeared confident throughout his short stay. After the game, Arthur said light-heartedly that Quiney's innings was the best 9 he had ever seen, and he added that Quiney had offered much in the dressing room and did not look out of depth at Test level.
Should he play in Adelaide, Quiney knows that he must show the kind of skill that brought him to Test level if he is to stay ahead of others such as Usman Khawaja in the national queue. The list of Australia's Test cricketers abounds with men who were only given one chance in the baggy green - including his Victoria team-mates Chris Rogers, Clint McKay and Bryce McGain - and Quiney is well aware that two lean matches could spell the end of his Test dreams.
"I'd rather make a scratchy fifty than a good nine," Quiney told reporters in Melbourne on Saturday. "I see this little window as being little. If I can get a score on the board and show that I can get runs at that level, it's going to help me out in the future. If I don't, the depth of the batting is getting better and better and people are scoring runs at Shield level and one-day level and they're doing a job. It's good healthy competition in the Australian setup."
Not that Quiney failed to contribute to Australia's strong showing at the Gabba. He took three catches, including two very sharp takes at gully, and bowled 11 overs of medium pace that conceded only 13 runs. Remarkably, he has the best economy rate of any player who has bowled at least ten overs for Australia in Test cricket, but Quiney knows that only runs off his own bat will determine whether he remains a Test cricketer.
"With the bat I was a little bit disappointed," he said. "My job is to make runs and I didn't make runs ... it can turn around pretty quickly. I've only had one innings in Test match cricket. If I get another couple of innings, hopefully I can turn that around and score some runs for the side and help out to contribute to a win."
For the time being, all Quiney can do is wait and see whether he will be given another opportunity in Adelaide, or if he is squeezed out to accommodate the return of Watson, Australia's vice-captain. Watson, who missed the first Test due to a calf injury, was named in a 13-man squad on Friday but he will only be considered if he is able contribute with the ball.
"It's a good limbo," Quiney said. "I'd rather be in this limbo than not being in the mix at all. If Shane gets fit, it's going to be beneficial for the team ... but if he doesn't get up and he's still unfit, I feel like the last Test was a bit of a dream and I've got a job to do now. If I do get the chance I've just got to knuckle down and get some runs."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here