Cleared to play the SCG Test after recovering from the ninth concussion of his young career, Will Pucovski batted opposite David Warner at the SCG nets on Tuesday and came through a stern examination from Australia’s fast bowlers.
Granted, predicting an XI out of a net session two days out from ball one is a bit like reading tea leaves, but his pairing with Warner in Australia’s final mandatory net session has to be a positive sign as he aims to finally get his hands on a baggy green.
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The two men batted together for close to an hour, with the first 15 minutes coming against Cameron Green, Pat Cummins and Michael Neser under the watch of coach Justin Langer who was standing in as umpire.
Both played the quicks with relative comfort, though the rookie can expect less in his half of the pitch on Thursday if he does debut. Over the session he faced two bouncers, one from Michael Neser and the other from Pat Cummins. He got under both comfortably.
“Will saw an independent neurologist, and he has seen a couple now, and I think the real heartening thing for him is whilst he has had a few concussions in the past, and they have come in different ways, it is not necessarily going to have any long-term impact on him,” Langer said on Tuesday.
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“I think if you can put your mind at rest with that, then that is a real positive for him. He is in a great frame of mind. He is incredibly positive about playing cricket. He has trained hard this week. As he and I have discussed a number of times, and I am sure other people have, the only way to get back on the horse is to get back on the horse.”
Ahead of the net session, Langer said the Australian think-tank was not concerned about Pucovski’s ability against the short ball.
“As he (Pucovski) will say, every team that he has played against has bowled a lot of short-pitched bowling to him. He has practised it, he has hit thousands and thousands and thousands of short balls and he got hit the other day.”
The one bowler who truly seemed to trouble Pucovski was off-spinner Nathan Lyon, who drifted one past the advancing batsman early in the Victorian’s turn in the spinners’ net. Lyon was later seen advising Pucovski on how best to play that kind of ball.
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Warner looked untroubled during his net session as he continues his push to play the New Year’s Test after missing the first two matches due to a groin strain.
He unintentionally put the injury to the test early in the session, slipping at the striker’s end as he practised a quick three, getting up with a laugh and without complaint.
Meanwhile, Steve Smith played with plenty of positive intent in the spinners’ net as he looks to overcome the issues he has had against India’s Ravichandran Ashwin.
Smith has scored just 10 runs this series at an average of 3.33, falling twice to Ashwin and admitted during the second Test that he had let the off-spinner set the tone in their most recent battles.
“I probably haven’t played Ashwin as well as I would have liked, I would probably like to put him under a bit more pressure,” he said on SEN in Melbourne.
“I’ve let him dictate terms and that’s probably something I’ve never let any spinner do in my career, I’ve taken it to them and been a bit more aggressive and made them change things – I haven’t allowed that to happen because I’m probably searching to be out there for long enough.
“It’s kind of a two-edged sword in a way, I think I need the confidence to take it on and play my game in a way.”
Tuesday’s session points to a more positive approach from the Australian batsman at the SCG.