Head admits to “mixed emotions” about six months on the road; Handscomb “pumped” to get going

Travis Head has admitted he has “mixed emotions” about travelling to England to play county cricket for Sussex this month, balancing the opportunity to remind the Australia selectors of his Ashes credentials with the prospect of spending six months away from home.

The Sheffield Shield’s regular season came to an end on Tuesday, with Head’s South Australia side finishing bottom of the points table despite his impressive individual form – he finished the group stage second on the run-scoring list, with 893 in 14 innings.

Head is one of ten Australians under contract for the early stages of the County Championship season. Several are due to stay on for the full English summer, but they are all due to miss the first two rounds of fixtures on account of their Shield commitments. Billy Stanlake (Derbyshire), Marnus Labuschagne and Michael Neser (both Glamorgan) are set to miss at least three games due to Queensland’s involvement in the final, while some other players’ arrivals will be delayed by a desire to spend some time with their families at the end of a busy home season.

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Head, who was recently engaged to his fiancée Jessica, falls into that category, and is not expected to make his Sussex debut until their fixture against Northamptonshire on May 6. He initially signed a deal with the club when Jason Gillespie – his coach at Adelaide Strikers and now for South Australia – was head coach at Hove, but will honour his contract despite Gillespie’s departure.

“[I’ve got a] couple of weeks off to refresh mentally and physically, but hopefully when I go to Sussex I can continue that good feeling,” Head said after South Australia’s final game of the season against Victoria. “There’s mixed emotions at the moment – I’ll see what happens with Jessica and whether she can come over – [but] there’s also that ambition to play a lot of first-class cricket and challenge myself.

“I want to build a future there and try to stay at Sussex. Hopefully this year I can go over there and play well, and have ambitions to win trophies and have success. There’s always mixed emotions leaving home for such a long time, but that’s what we sign up for, and I knew that was the expectation when I signed.”

As for his hopes of an Australia recall – having lost his place during the India series – Head said: “I’ve got six months to do it. Whenever I get an opportunity, I want to do well and to contribute to winning games of cricket. If that takes care of the other side, of playing for Australia, then great, but I want to win every game of cricket I possibly can.”

Head’s opposite number in South Australia’s final game of the season was Peter Handscomb, whose contract with Middlesex for the 2020 summer was deferred by a year due to the pandemic. Handscomb will captain Middlesex in the County Championship and the Royal London Cup, and could arrive in the UK in time for their fixture against Surrey on April 22.

“I’m pretty pumped to get over there, actually,” Handscomb said. “I really wanted to play there last year as well. Playing at Lord’s, getting to captain Middlesex – it’s pretty exciting stuff. While I’m feeling decent enough with the bat, I want to get over there and keep the ball rolling and get amongst the Middlesex lads. I’ve had a year of talking to them now and barely meeting them – it’s time to put some of those conversations into practice.

“It gets a bit cold in Melbourne over the winter – not that it’s warm over in England – but it’s just nice to keep playing. I’ve been talking to Bucky [Chris Rogers] about it as well and he holds them in high regard in everything they do. I’m pretty pumped to play for Middlesex.”

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98

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