Australia news October 22, 2012

Shield matches moved to ease Test preparation

Michael Hussey, Peter Siddle, James Pattinson, Ricky Ponting and Ben Hilfenhaus will be among the beneficiaries in Australia's Test team after the decision to move two Sheffield Shield fixtures forward by a day to allow extra time to prepare for the start of the South Africa series.

The elimination of the Perth Scorchers from the Twenty20 Champions League allowed Victoria's match against Western Australia at the MCG to be shuffled forward from November 2 to November 1, while Tasmania's Bellerive encounter with South Australia had already been slated to make the same move. A domestic limited overs match between the teams has also moved, to Tuesday, October 30.

Siddle and Pattinson will turn out for Victoria, while Hussey is expected to be named for the Warriors, having already returned home from the CLT20 for personal reasons. Chennai's early exit also means Ben Hilfenhaus will be available to join Ponting in the Tasmania side to face the Redbacks - an important outing for the swing bowler given it will be his first non-T20 match since the West Indies Test tour in April.

The only match of the last Shield round before the first Test at the Gabba not to be moved is Queensland's match against New South Wales at Allan Border Field. This game might also have been shifted had the Sydney Sixers been eliminated from the CLT20, but their progress has prevented such a change.

Nevertheless, the NSW and Queensland selectors will be able to nominate replacement players for the final day of the game, and the players' presence in Brisbane prevents the need for any travel time between the end of the Shield game and the start of Test training at the Gabba. The first Test squad will be announced in advance of this round of matches.

Pat Howard, the Cricket Australia team performance manager, had flagged these changes last week in explaining how the team performance hierarchy was doing all it could to prepare players for the Tests while still having the squad assembled in Brisbane on the Monday of Test match week.

"Results at the Champions League Twenty20 have enabled us to move these matches and while we would've liked to move the match between Queensland and NSW as well, that hasn't been possible due to the Sydney Sixers' good performances," Howard said.

"Any player playing in that Sheffield Shield match between Queensland and NSW who is selected in the first Test squad will leave on Sunday and the state will be permitted a replacement player. NSW and Queensland will obviously know how this may affect their selection once the squad for the first Test is announced later this month.

"These changes have been adapted to give those players selected in the squad for the first Test the best preparation we can."

An Australia A fixture has also been scheduled for November 2-4 in Sydney against the South Africa tourists, with some members of the Test squad likely to be chosen for this match. The opening batsmen Ed Cowan and David Warner may be among those considered.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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