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Shield shootout set to shape Test squad

AAP logoAAP 16/11/2016 Rob Forsaith, Adrian Warren and Laine Clark

For the first time in a long time, the nation will be taking a keen interest in Sheffield Shield cricket.

Australia's shambolic batting collapses in Perth and Hobart amidst five consecutive Test defeats have put the spotlight on the Shield, formerly a production line for the national side.

Debates over whether the Shield has been devalued in recent seasons will be put to one side when games begin in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth on Thursday.

Selectors always pay close attention to Shield contests but the stakes have rarely been so high for youngsters hoping to earn a maiden call-up to the Test XI.

Coach Darren Lehmann has promised change and put more than half of the Test side on notice ahead of the third Test against South Africa, with all of the incumbent batsmen sent back to the Shield alongside offspinner Nathan Lyon and keeper Peter Nevill.

Adam Voges, Callum Ferguson and Joe Burns may all be dropped. Lyon and Nevill were expected to be retained but that may change depending on who is named interim chairman of selectors following Rod Marsh's immediate resignation.

Western Australia host Tasmania at the WACA, where Mitch Marsh and Jackson Bird will hope to boost their chances of a recall, while Queensland clash with South Australia at the Gabba.

But the match with most intrigue - and Test players - will be at the SCG, where NSW are up against Victoria.

Lyon, Nevill, Steve Smith and David Warner are all in action, while young batsmen Kurtis Patterson and Nic Maddinson (both NSW) and Peter Handscomb (Victoria) could grab a baggy green with a monster innings.

Smith called on Test hopefuls and incumbents to have more pride in their wicket after the Proteas took an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series.

"It was a pretty emotional response from Steve but that's what is expected," NSW spinner Steve O'Keefe said.

"He loves that Australian cricket team and he wants to see them do well ... he doesn't want to let the fans or the public down.

"You can't doubt the way that they prepare or train ... it's just not performing and you expose yourself to this sort of criticism.

"You certainly have a bit of empathy and compassion for them."

O'Keefe is one of many players on the cusp of the Test squad and is likely to be called up if selectors opt to bring two spinners to Adelaide for the day-night Test, as they did last year.

Queensland coach Phil Jaques, one of many players forced to earn a baggy green during the national side's glory days, urged national selectors to adopt a pick-and-stick mentality.

"I don't think wholesale changes work full stop in any team. I think it unsettles them," Jaques said in Brisbane.

"There are some good players in that team, they are worth backing ... if they are backed they will come good.

"There will be one or two changes, I would be surprised if they make wholesale changes."

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