Queensland skipper Usman Khawaja has likened teammate Mark Steketee to South Africa great Dale Steyn, labelling the quick’s current form as career-best.
Steketee is among a host of fast bowlers fighting for advantage in the pecking order behind Australia’s Test trio Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins.
Although Queensland went down in the Sheffield Shield to Western Australia by seven wickets on Saturday at the Gabba, Steketee again performed strongly with 4-74 and 2-21.
The 27-year-old, who picked up career-best figures of 7-44 against South Australia last month, tops the Shield wicket-taker list this season with 18 at 15.72.
“(He) has been around the Aussie thinking (and) the next fast bowling crop for a while now,” Khawaja told reporters.
“This year, the way he’s been bowling is as good as I’ve seen him bowl. He’s got gears too, you can tell he’s experienced now. He can read the conditions.
“When he was younger he just used to try and bowl 100 per cent. He’s got the skills and the gears now to take it back a bit and then ramp it up, much like Dale Steyn used to throughout his career.”
Australia is expected to soon name an extended Ashes squad, with an intra-squad practice game early next month looming as a key shootout ahead of the first Test against England on December 8.
Steketee, Bulls teammate Michael Neser, experienced Victorian Scott Boland, WA speedster Jhye Richardson and NSW allrounder Sean Abbott are among the next crop of quicks.
Richardson, who has two Tests to his name, starred against the Bulls with 3-38 and 5-23 and hit a valuable 35 with the bat.
Neser picked up a hamstring injury in his side’s loss but is expected to be fit by the start of the Ashes.
National selectors could opt for a rotation policy with the five-Test series being squeezed into six weeks.
Khawaja, himself in top touch with the bat and pushing for a return to the Test side, indicated Steketee should be at the top of the pack.
“He’s bowling beautifully right now. He’s been the pick of our bowlers all season,” he said.
“The bounce and the kiss he’s getting off the wicket, we feel in the game every ball.”