Jake Lehmann of South Australia in action.
Jake Lehmann of South Australia in action.

Boof will leave room for son's Ashes selection debate

JAKE Lehmann has surged into dramatic contention for a fairytale Test debut at the Gabba, but his father won't play a part in the decision.

"Son of Boof" made a superb 93 on Monday to go with his first innings hundred at the MCG, and the 25-year-old's perfectly timed form, coupled with an impressive record of six first-class centuries in 29 matches, has made him stand out like Christmas lights in an underwhelming field for Australia's No. 6 spot.

Cricket Australia has ratified a rule that means national coach, selector and proud father Darren Lehmann would be forced to excuse himself from a final decision over Jake, should it come to that, due to the potential conflict of interest.

Not that Lehmann Sr would need to be asked twice; he made it clear last year that he walked out whenever his son's name came up in selection conversation, and if Jake ever made it he'd be so nervous he'd abandon his coaching post and go straight to the bar.

However, the topic of South Australian Lehmann playing Test cricket has very quickly gone from a throwaway line to a serious proposition.

The Australian hierarchy has made it clear that the No. 6 and No. 7 keeping spots are wide open and that the opening three Shield rounds were essentially an old-fashioned shootout. Based on that criteria, Lehmann - with scores of 103 and 93 off 143 balls - is the one contender who has stood up to be counted.

The big call to be made midway through the next Shield game will be almost exclusively in the hands of Chairman of Selectors Trevor Hohns - who has been present for Lehmann's two big knocks in the past three days and has been handed final say and responsibility on all Test selection matters.

Greg Chappell and Mark Waugh would be consulted, but Darren Lehmann would leave the room.

Even if Hilton Cartwright remains in the box seat to fill the vacant No. 6 position for the first Test in two weeks' time, Lehmann must now be right near the top of the queue to be blooded during the Ashes.

Jake Lehmann has put up his hand for the first Test against England.
Jake Lehmann has put up his hand for the first Test against England.

Callum Ferguson, who made 140 not out against Victoria, said South Australia put up an image of the baggy green on a big screen in the team room before every season as motivation for players - and he believes Lehmann is now within reach of the holy grail.

"Certainly if there's any time to be making runs, this is it. Jake has certainly thrown his hat in the ring," Ferguson said.

"He's made good runs in four day cricket for a few years now and really consistently. I dare say (he and Travis Head) would be in the frame. Lehmo backing it up in the second innings, I was really disappointed for him not to get the two hundreds, but he showed he's a high quality batsman and that he has a big future."

Lehmann said after his century on Saturday that it's all he's ever wanted.

"If you're not wanting to play for Australia, you're probably not playing for the right reasons," Lehmann said.

"That's why we play state cricket … obviously to win games for your state, but secondly you want to play for Australia. That's every kid's dream and I think every single player playing shield cricket this round would be thinking about that."

Lehmann fell seven runs short of a second hundred for the match, which would have made a compelling argument at the selection table.

In the end he was out trying to sweep Victorian spinner Fawad Ahmed out of the ground, only to sky it straight up for Aaron Finch to snare at fine leg. But 93 is still a massive statement.

"I always try and play the same way and back my ability," he said.

"There's a lot of talk about (selection) at the moment. Whoever gets to bat at No. 6 or keep for Australia I'm sure they would have earnt their stripes in these first three shield games, whoever it's I'd say best of luck to them."

At the moment, no one is working harder than Lehmann.


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