Opening contenders botch golden chance to press Test selection claims by letting big scores go begging

Marcus Harris and Cameron Bancroft have missed a golden chance to convert decent knocks into big scores to press their cases for Test selection as Australia prepare for star opener David Warner’s imminent retirement.

The duo each batted with poise for the Prime Minister’s XI in their tour game against Pakistan on a batting friendly Manuka Oval surface but fell when a major score beckoned.

Harris was dismissed by leg-spinner Abrah Ahmed one run shy of a half-century while Bancroft fell three runs after reaching the milestone when he was trapped in front by seamer Khurram Shahzad.

Replying to the tourists’ 9-391 declared, Harris and Bancroft batted through the entire second session against Pakistan’s second-string bowling attack and rarely offered a chance.

Harris looked as strong as ever through the off-side, executing cut shots and cover drives early in his innings.

He took a liking to Abrar, twice dancing down the pitch and hoisting him over mid-wicket for boundaries but the spinner had the last laugh.

Bancroft’s 53 came after a mountain of runs at Sheffield Shield level – 512 at an average of 57. He did nick fast bowler Mir Hamza through the slips though in one shaky moment.

The tourists’ nearly found a breakthrough courtesy of Bancroft, who called a particularly sharp single that would have seen Harris run out with a direct hit.

Marcus Harris holes out one short of his half-century, as Pakistan take their first wicket of the tour #PMXIvPAK

— (@cricketcomau) December 7, 2023

Matt Renshaw, another player jostling for prime position to replace Warner when the long-term opener retires in January, is batting at No.3 and was 18 not out in partnership with Cameron Green (19) as the hosts reached 2-149 from 60 overs at stumps.

Green is trying to fight his way back into the Test setup after being displaced by Mitch Marsh. He could play a big part in the side if any of Marsh, Marnus Labuschagne or Travis Head is moved up the order to open.

Bancroft joins Harris back in the sheds, pinned on the crease by Khurram Shahzad#PMXIvPAK

— (@cricketcomau) December 7, 2023

They are all not facing the tourists’ first-choice bowling outfit however, with Shaheen Shah Afridi, Hasan Ali and Mohammad Wasim all rested for the PM’s XI clash.

Uncapped allrounder Aamer Jamal looked the most likely of the back-up bowlers in his 0-6 from three overs.

Earlier, skipper Shan Masood capped a brilliant, unbeaten double-century before Pakistan declared their innings.

He looked like a man on a mission and displayed little emotion when he reached his latest milestone, setting the tone for his side in his first innings since assuming the captaincy.

South Australia quick Jordan Buckingham (5-80) was the PM’s XI best bowler, completing his haul courtesy of a sharp catch from Renshaw at leg-gully to dismiss Hamza (eight).

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