Centurions Harris and Neser stake their Test claims

·3-min read
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Marcus Harris and Michael Neser are keeping themselves sharp to spearhead Australia's World Test Championship final bid if required, with both in-form players signing off from their county spells with striking hundreds.

Opener Harris achieved the notable feat of being the first Gloucestershire player since fellow Aussie Cameron Bancroft six years ago to carry his bat through a completed first-class innings, as he bowed out on Sunday with an unbeaten 122 in a losing cause against Durham.

While Harris was showing his grit at Bristol, allrounder Neser, who's been having a superb season at Glamorgan, was helping himself to just the third century of his career in an extraordinary run-laden game against Sussex at Hove featuring his international teammates Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith.

After run-hungry Labuschagne had been left a bit frustrated by getting out for 'just' 138 in Glamorgan's rearguard action on Saturday, Neser went on to bat the Welsh county to safety with a marathon knock of 123, lasting over four-and-a-quarter hours.

It helped Glamorgan, who had been 358 runs behind on first innings, to make the extraordinary total of 737 in their second knock - the fifth-highest second-innings score in the history of first-class cricket and 614 more than they garnered first time around. Their captain Kiran Carlson made 192 of them.

And with Carlson not in the mood for any frivolous declaration after their slog to battle back into the game, it meant the game ended in unlikely fashion with Steve Smith not only getting a bowl, but even taking 2-55 in his 10.5 overs.

Neser slog-swept Smith for six to bring up his century, so the part-time spinner wasn't too unhappy, ending up with a sheepish grin at finally slipping one through his fellow Aussie's guard with a yorker to end his excellent innings.

Neser was bowled by the 198th ball he faced, having clocked 15 fours and two sixes.

"He's contributed really well with the bat this year for us on top of his outstanding bowling efforts. To top it off with a hundred, I'm delighted for him," said Glamorgan coach Matthew Maynard of Neser, whose highlight with the Welsh county was his hat-trick in a career-best seven-wicket haul against Yorkshire.

Late in the day, absurdly as they were asked to score a nominal target of 380 off 14 overs, Sussex even came out to bat again for one pointless over, with Labuschagne having the dubious honour of taking the new ball to go through the motions.

More seriously for Sussex, though - and for England - was the sight of paceman Ollie Robinson leaving the dressing room on crutches and wearing a protective boot to protect his troublesome ankle which kept him out of second half of the match.

The good news for the Australian Ashes challenge, though, has been led in England this season by 30-year-old Harris, a safe pair of hands who's compiled 457 runs including two tons and two fifties, averaging 57.12 while on county duty. 

On Sunday, despite Gloucestershire's 125-run defeat, he was immoveable, signing off by batting for just over five hours, while facing 195 balls and hitting 15 fours.