'I'm doing everything I can' - Wade
Matthew Wade knows his immediate fate in the baggy green could be in his own hands as the selectors prepare to choose between him and Brad Haddin for the first Test against South Africa. Australia's captain Michael Clarke and national selector John Inverarity have both said in the past few days that the Haddin-Wade decision has not yet been made, which gives both men extra motivation to perform over the next fortnight.
The problem for Haddin is that he is in South Africa at the Champions League T20 and should the Sydney Sixers go all the way in the tournament, he won't have any more Sheffield Shield opportunities to press his case before the decision is made. Although Haddin, who turns 35 next week, made a terrific 114 in his most recent Shield match last month, the selectors will need to weigh up his experience against the youth and talent of Wade.
Wade was given a chance in Test cricket in the West Indies in April, when Haddin pulled out of the tour after his daughter Mia was diagnosed with cancer, and impressed with a century in his third Test. He began this season with 89 in his only Shield match so far and another big innings against Tasmania at the MCG next week could be enough to sway things his way ahead of a battle with the No.1 Test team in the world.
"I feel comfortable within the Australian setup now, I understand what they're all about and what we're trying to do," Wade told ESPNcricinfo. "I feel really comfortable around the team but that doesn't guarantee you selection. It's all about performance from here on in. I've got two more Shield games before the Tests and if I can perform in them, hopefully I'll get picked.
"I can only do what I can control. It was nice to come home early and play at the Gabba and get some runs there. I feel like I'm doing everything I can, I'm playing to the best of my ability. If that's not good enough, that's not good enough. I can only get told on the day whether I'm in or out."
Wade, 24, has racked up three Tests, 25 ODIs and 15 Twenty20 internationals since making his debut just over a year ago, and has gone from strength to strength. Inverarity has been impressed not only with Wade's work for Australia but was also happy with what he saw against Queensland at the Gabba last week, when Wade came in with Victoria wobbling at 4 for 39 and rescued the innings in very trying conditions.
"It shows what a very good batsman Matthew Wade is," Inverarity said. "That innings, in the context of that game was the match-winner. They bowled very well in helpful conditions and that 89 was a very significant batting performance.
"If you go back to February, he played for Australia, then he played on the wickets in the West Indies, then he went to England and played there, then the UAE, then Sri Lanka. The amount of experience he's got into his experience in seven months is fantastic."
It hasn't all been easy for Wade, as anyone who watched the one-day series in the Caribbean could attest. While his glovework was always sound, he found it especially difficult batting against the spin of Sunil Narine, but the way he worked through that trouble and emerged with a Test century in Dominica, having come to the crease at 5 for 157, pleased the coach Mickey Arthur.
"We saw Wadey in the West Indies really battle with the turning ball, he hadn't played in conditions like that before, he didn't have a game-plan, he didn't know how to score, he didn't know where to score off Sunil Narine," Arthur said. "But he worked it out and at the end of the series he got a really good hundred.
"We saw a little bit of that in England, a little bit of that in Sri Lanka, he worked immensely hard through the T20 on his batting, his first-class batting. He learns very quickly. He's like a little kid, he comes and he fights it and he moans and whinges and gets frustrated, but he works hard, learns quick and hopefully he gets the rewards. He's got a good edge to him."
Arthur and Inverarity are both on the selection panel that will make the decision by the end of this month, as is Clarke, who said this week that Wade was "an amazing talent" who "is going to be a big player for Australian cricket over a long period of time". Whether that period encompasses the South African series remains to be seen, but Wade would love the chance to tackle Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel.
"There's no tougher Test cricket than what that will be against South Africa," Wade said. "As cricketers all we want to do is test ourselves against the best players in the world. Their bowlers are the best in the world at times. It's going to be hard work all summer against those guys and then a pretty good team in Sri Lanka coming over as well.
"It's definitely a bigger jump up in intensity [to Test cricket] and you always get that one bowler that troubles you. The pressure is a little bit different. I think a home series is probably going to be even tougher, everyone is watching, but it would be fantastic to play in."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here