Test cricket is back on the agenda with the first test of the Australian summer getting underway on the 21st of November, with Australia facing up against Pakistan at Brisbane.
Australia are expected to win, and it is not expected to be close, as Australia are on a bit of a run-on and Pakistan are a little bit below Australia at Test level anyway. With that in mind, the final XI probably doesn’t matter too much and Australia can probably afford to be a little bit experimental. Not too much, as we don’t want to lose, but perhaps to try out a player or two who are on the fringes.
Squad of 14:
1. David Warner
2. Joe Burns
3. Cameron Bancroft
4. Marnus Labuschagne
5. Steve Smith
6. Travis Head
7. Matthew Wade
8. Tim Paine
9. Michael Neser
10. Pat Cummins
11. James Pattinson
12. Mitchell Starc
13. Josh Hazlewood
14. Nathan Lyon
Of those 14 names, the only one who is yet to make his test debut is Michael Neser, who is brought in to replace Mitchell Marsh, who injured himself outside of play, something to do with acting out in frustration at being out. He may have faced a suspension anyway, but is injured and, either way, isn’t welcome. Mitchell Marsh was otherwise expected to line up for this test.
Another player who was expected to play is Will Pucovski, who was widely expected to join David Warner at the top of the ladder, the only question being whether the opener would be better off with the pressure of opening or to play at number 6 in his first test match. Pucovski does sometimes bat at number 3, but prefers to open.
The problem is that Pucovski, who previously took a break last year for mental health reasons, has taken another break for the same undisclosed reasons. He joins Glenn Maxwell and Nic Maddinson, though neither of them were expected to play tests.
It was meant to be a 3-way battle for 2 spots between Pucovski, Joe Burns and Travis Head, but, with Pucovski’s withdrawal, a new player had to be picked as cover, and they chose another player who has been known to open and to bat in the middle order in Cameron Bancroft, so that it is now a 3-way battle for 2 spots between Bancroft, Burns and Head.
Burns has been in some great form this season, while Bancroft hasn’t, but Bancroft was a last-minute addition to the Australia A side after Nic Maddinson’s withdrawal for mental health reasons, and he did reasonably well – compared to the other Australia A batsmen, at least, and finds himself as a last-minute addition to the test squad as well, all of which sounds eerily similar to his call-up for the Ashes, and indeed to his original call-up before the ban.
He is a chance to play, though he probably shouldn’t. The question is more whether Cricket Australia have learned their lessons that he is toxic to the team.
As for the bowlers, there shouldn’t be much of a choice, as Starc, Cummins, Hazlewood and Lyon should walk up to the side.
While Pattinson was decent in England, he showed that he is not quite at their level, and needs a bit of time to get back to test level. He is still a good backup, though.
As for Neser, he is a chance of playing when they need an extra bowler, which probably isn’t at Brisbane. If he does play, it is likely competing with Travis Head as a batsman who can bowl pace, not a bowler.
- David Warner
- Joe Burns
- Marnus Labuschagne
- Steve Smith
- Travis Head
- Matthew Wade
- Tim Paine (c) (wk)
- Pat Cummins
- Mitchell Starc
- Josh Hazlewood
- Nathan Lyon
Of note, they did a poll on Cricket Australia as to who everyone picked for their final 11, with 4 players picked in more than 90% of the teams (Smith, Warner, Labuschagne and Cummins), 5 more picked in more than 75% of the teams (Wade, Paine, Starc, Hazlewood and Lyon) – worryingly, Paine, the captain, was only the 7th favourite player. But then came the two that few people are willing to pick – Travis Head (46%) and… Cameron Bancroft (29%). While hardly a popular pick, more people picked Bancroft than Burns.
Bancroft may well end up in the final team. I really hope he doesn’t. But we’ll probably win either way.