Test challenger sidelined for family leave

Marcus Stoinis' bid to win Australia's No.6 spot in the Ashes series has hit a complication, with the West Australian all-rounder ruled out of the Warriors' Sheffield Shield match against NSW as he takes personal leave to be with his family.

Injury-prone quick Nathan Coulter-Nile will have an early chance to stake his claim for a Test berth after WA picked him for a two-day match against the tourists this weekend rather than force him into back-to-back shield games.

Stoinis, 28, who has played eight one-day internationals and two Twenty20 internationals for Australia and was called up to the Test tour of India this year, returned to his home state of WA this season following a stint in Victoria to be closer to his father Chris, who has had a long battle with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Stoinis' situation was also behind his 2016 decision to fly back to Australia early from a stint in the Indian Premier League, as well as his absence from WA's JLT one-day cup final team last month. He averages a whopping 86 with the bat in ODIs, but went wicketless and made just nine and 32 in WA's thumping opening-round shield win over Tasmania.

Spots six and seven and two positions in the Australian XI are up in the air ahead of the first Test in Brisbane this month. Among the other all-rounder contenders for No.6 are Victorian Glenn Maxwell and Stoinis' WA teammate Hilton Cartwright, both of who have had a taste of Test cricket this year, while WA veteran Shaun Marsh's name has been mentioned for a batting role. New South Wales' Daniel Hughes has also come into the conversation of late following a strong JLT Cup and a half-century in the Blues' shield opener against South Australia.

Australian Twenty20 quick Jason Behrendorff has returned to the Warriors' squad for the match beginning on Saturday on Hurstville Oval. He replaces fellow speedster Coulter-Nile, who will remain in Perth to play against England at the WACA, with WA coach Justin Langer saying the state was mindful of monitoring the bowler's workload.

"He hasn't played back-to-back first-class games since 2015," Langer said.

"We are mindful of this and want to ensure his return to this level of cricket is managed appropriately to give him the best chance this season. He is coping pretty well in his return from injury but he is still building up to the levels required for consecutive first-class matches.

"We believe the best plan is for him is to play the two-day tour match against England and then into round three of the shield."

Coulter-Nile has played 21 ODIs and 19 T20 internationals for Australia, featuring in the recent white-ball tour of India, but was sidelined for all of last summer with a back injury, having toured Sri Lanka earlier in 2016 as part of Australia's Test and ODI squads before missing the ensuing T20 leg of the tour through injury. He had also been in contention for a Test debut in the 2015-16 home summer before getting hurt playing in the Big Bash League. A handy lower-order batsman, he made 42 and 52 against the Tigers as well as taking 4-41 across the match.

This story Test challenger sidelined for family leave first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.