The Second Test ended in a draw, which, by my book at least, justifies changing the team. It is said that you should never change a winning team, barring injury, but sometimes you should. The Australian team, as it stands right now, has some very good players but also some who are doing very badly, who are in the side at the expense of some who are on the sidelines and probably should be there.
In spite of being man of the match in the first test, and top-scoring in the second, Steve Smith is suffering from a concussion and looks likely to miss the third test. He might be forced to miss out, even though undoubtedly he wants to play. Playing with a concussion can be fatal.
Peter Siddle wasn’t supposed to play in the first test, let alone the second, and he really didn’t do enough in either test to genuinely keep out the two “Big Three” bowlers he was keeping out. He was given a spot in the First Test primarily because of his consistency and kept his spot because of his 44 runs with the bat, rather than the two wickets for the match he took while bowling.
He took three more in the Second Test, but five wickets out of a potential 40 is not enough to justify his spot, nor is his batting, where he bats at nine or 10, anywhere near enough to make up for the gap. The question is whether Josh Hazlewood, who also took three wickets for the match, and faded badly after a brilliant start, should be left out instead. As both are line and length bowlers, they are effectively both fighting for one spot, and it seems impossible for Mitchell Starc to be left out of the Third Test.
Cameron Bancroft is the man being talked about the most but his opening partner David Warner has actually scored less runs. At least Bancroft has passed 10 runs three times out of four. The problem being that he hasn’t passed 20, and, most importantly, he has looked absolutely horrible. If we were to go purely on batting average in the two tests, then we’d dump Warner, but if we were to consider overall form and potential, then there’s no way that Warner misses out. On form, probably both should miss out, but it seems that sensibly Bancroft should be let go, as we can see, once and for all, whether it is Warner who is out of form or if it is just the distraction from his opening partner.
In spite of a first test century, Matthew Wade really hasn’t done enough to justify his spot in the side, with three low scores adding to that century. Given the outstanding performance of Marnus Labuschagne when he came in as concussion substitute, it looks like Labuschagne is playing either way, and if Smith does play then it might be Wade who is the one to make way. It’ll be a tough decision either way.
Some people are claiming that Usman Khawaja is in doubt but that seems a silly idea to me. He looked good until he got out, and seems to be in some kind of form, just that he is losing concentration at just the wrong time. Moving him in to open may help matters, but only if we decide to dump both openers, which would seem to be overly risky.
Marnus Labuschagne looks a lock, after he scored 59 valuable 2nd innings runs as Australia were holding on for dear life, after coming in as a concussion substitute. We often talk about easy runs versus hard runs, and these were most definitely hard runs, in more ways than one. While it wasn’t quite the level that Steve Smith was, it was certainly very good, so much so that, even if Smith does end up playing, Labuschagne should play anyway. With Bancroft and Warner the worst of the batsmen, Labuschagne may find himself thrown in to open, or he may find himself replacing Matthew Wade. Whoever he replaces, he seems sure to play.
Mitchell Starc is in incredible form, most notably by the fact that he broke the record for most wickets in the World Cup, then was incredibly dumped in favour of Peter Siddle, who has not done anywhere near as well as Starc likely would have. It’s just baffling that Starc has been left out. It’s not like he was out of form in red ball cricket either, as he took 10 wickets for a man of the match performance in his last test. He also did pretty well in the last Ashes in England as well. Just simply baffling. The only question is which of Siddle or Hazlewood misses out. Hazlewood looked phenomenal early then faded while Siddle held his form but never really looked test level. Consistent mediocrity or flashes of brilliance? I’d go for flashes of brilliance, myself. Flashes of brilliance can win matches. Mediocrity at most stops us losing.
Marcus Harris should have played in the First Test, and would have but for a selection gaffe in picking Cameron Bancroft but Harris fans should be excited that, not only has Bancroft failed, but so has his opening partner David Warner as well. Their failures, in all four innings, for both of them, now mean that Harris must play, the only question being which will miss out.
Warner is undoubtedly the better player and is in better form, but, for the past two tests, Bancroft has been ever slightly better, at least with runs scored. The question is whether Bancroft is affecting Warner and possibly Khawaja as well. I’d give Warner one more test, and then, if he fails with Harris, then bring Bancroft in to replace Warner. Whether the selectors agree is another situation entirely.
My suggested changes:
OUT: Cameron Bancroft, Steve Smith (injured)/Matthew Wade (if not), Peter Siddle
IN: Marcus Harris, Marnus Labuschagne, Mitchell Starc
Will the selectors make the obvious changes? Or will they do something surprising? Could they dump Warner in favour of Bancroft? Could Warner-Bancroft be given a third test? Could Siddle play and Hazlewood be left out? Could Starc be left out? There are obviously a lot of options available but this seems to me like the correct choice and, fingers crossed, the selectors agree.