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First-innings runs uplift key to New South Wales' prospects

They will have Nathan Lyon for a good number of games before Test duty but young batters need to stand up

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
Kurtis Patterson made a rollicking 112, New South Wales vs Victoria, Sheffield Shield, SCG, Day 4, November 23, 2021

Kurtis Patterson is hoping to lead from the front in search of more runs  •  Getty Images

Captain Kurtis Patterson
Coach Phil Jaques
Squad R=Rookie, CA=Australia contract
Sean Abbott, Trent Copeland, Pat Cummins (CA), Oliver Davies, Liam Doddrell (R), Ben Dwarshuis, Jack Edwards, Mickey Edwards, Matthew Gilkes, Ryan Hackney, Ryan Hadley, Liam Hatcher, Josh Hazlewood (CA), Lachlan Hearne, Moises Henriques, Baxter Holt, Daniel Hughes, Hayden Kerr, Nathan Lyon (CA), Blake Nikitaras (R), Jack Nisbet (R), Kurtis Patterson, Will Salzmann (R), Daniel Sams, Jason Sangha, Tanveer Sangha, Lachlan Shaw (R), Steven Smith (CA), Mitchell Starc (CA), Chris Tremain, Hunar Verma (R), David Warner (CA), Adam Zampa (CA) In Liam Doddrell, Ryan Hadley, Hayden Kerr, Blake Nikitaras, Lachlan Shaw, Will Salzmann | Out Josh Baraba, Harry Conway (SA), Peter Nevill (retired)
Winter moves
The main departures were Peter Nevill's retirement after a distinguished career in front and behind the stumps, as well as a leader, while Harry Conway has gone to South Australia. Last season's breakout star Hayden Kerr has earned his first full contract alongside young batters Ryan Hadley and Blake Nikitaras. Will Salzmann, 18, is a highly regarded allrounder.
Last season
Due to border restrictions, New South Wales faced Victoria three times in the first part of the season. They lost the opening two games to put their campaign on the back foot, but when the Shield resumed in February they secured wins against Queensland and Tasmania. However, it wasn't enough to keep them in finals contention and in the last game of the season South Australia chased down 326. The biggest issue for NSW was a lack of first-innings runs where their highest total was 294 in the final outing. Overall, there were just two individual hundreds.
Player to watch
On that note, it is an important season for captain Kurtis Patterson. In the last two seasons, he has averaged 21.29 and 28.11 respectively. He needs to lead a batting revival from the front as a senior player.
"In particular our first innings batting last year just wasn't good enough," Patterson told ESPNcricinfo. "On day one [of pre-season] we had three or four really key areas to work on and guys really taking the reins in four-day cricket was a big one. That's guided how we've trained around our red-ball stuff. I've always thought your captain's hat is off when the team is batting, that's easier said than done, but I feel in a better place having had a year captaining under my belt. Feel that separation is a bit easier now that I'm not too stressed out about team things."
NSW will also hope to see further development in their two wicketkeepers - Matthew Gilkes and Baxter Holt - following the retirement of Nevill. Holt is expected to start in the Shield side but he will need to build on a first-class average of 14.77.
Australia radar
Beyond the big three quicks, David Warner, and Steven Smith, who NSW may not see anything off this season, Nathan Lyon is expected to be available for three or four Shield games before the Tests begin in late November. They will hope for a return more akin to 2020-21 (42 wickets at 25.97) than 2021-22 (four wickets at 62.75) but he won't be available for the latter part of the competition due to the India Test tour.
An interesting one could be Adam Zampa who, in theory, will be free for red-ball cricket in February. He has not played a first-class match since 2019. Elsewhere, Sean Abbott is the likeliest to be pulled away for Australia duty (he will miss the opening round due to the West Indies series) although probably only around white-ball cricket now enlarged squads are no longer needed. It's a long shot, but another strong season for Chris Tremain, who took 24 wickets at 15.95 last summer, could push him into the list of back-up quicks. Tanveer Sangha's back injury appears likely to curtail his ambitions of pushing further towards international selection for a little while, but he will hope for a strong second half of the season.

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo