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What to do for the fifth test and beyond?
Considering the shocker the selectors have had for the fourth test, why not speculate a little? I know it’s only the end of day two, but it might as well be day five.
I finished off the last article suggesting the selectors had been showing a bit of form, starting with taking the leap and making Steve Smith captain. It almost didn’t feel like something Australia would do, selecting someone so young. Making such a big statement early in a career can go either way. History says Smith loved it and smashed his way to a million runs.
Dropping Haddin had to be done. Looking back, the selectors must have planned to give him one more test at lords before giving Nevill a crack. After he withdrew for family reasons, and Nevill showed enough to say he belongs at test level, all the selectors had to do was stick to their guns. It’s much easier said than done, but to their credit they did it. Haddin might be the spiritual leader of this team, but that’s not a position on the field. His job is to keep wickets and score runs. Unfortunately he hasn’t scored runs for 18 months. If he wants to keep motivating the squad, I’m sure they will figure out a contract for him to do so.
Ahhhhh…. Watson. I could write 5000 words about why Watson needed to go, but I’m going to keep it short and sweet. If you don’t know the “for and against” arguments for dropping Watson you have been living under a rock. You clearly don’t have any form of social media and I applaud you for that. I’m of the opinion it was about 36 months past the right time to drop him, so let’s just say another good move from the selectors.
Now, to the future. If I was selecting the XI for a dead rubber fifth test, what would I do?? And while we’re at it, what about the XI for the GABBA test in November?
I would rest Hazelwood straight up. He needs the break. Even in his first few overs of day two, he couldn’t find the spot. He won’t get much fresher than at 10:30am. With no pressure, it would be a good time to give Pat Cummins a taste of test cricket again. To make this work, Mitch Marsh would have to be brought back so they can still limit Pat’s overs to some extent. You can’t send him in after all his injuries and two years away from red ball cricket, with only four bowlers.
That’s the easy part. Now for the real conversation starter, as we know how heated discussions can get over who is next in line. Depending on which state you are from, there’s a fair chance we all have someone different in mind.
I have a few batsmen I would like to see trialled/reinstated as soon as possible.
The first is Joe Burns. He can probably feel pretty unlucky to not be in this Ashes team. He had played the last two tests against India, with a solid introductory average of 36.5. He averaged 52.86 in last year’s Shield and is currently hitting them pretty well on the A tour of India. Only yesterday he shared a 200+ run opening partnership against India A with Usman Khawaja (who is also on my list). He only got shunted down the pecking order because Adam Voges scored the third or fourth most runs in a Shield season on record, at an average of 108.
My next pick is Western Australia’s opening batsmen, Cameron Bancroft. I had heard a bit about him through the year, but had no idea he is still only 22. After doing a bit more research, he certainly has a good list of junior credentials. He averaged 50.7 during his time with the Australian U/19’s and was the team’s second highest run scorer for the World Cup in 2012. He also averaged 47.15 (including a high score of 211) in last year’s Sheffield Shield, in only his second season in the competition full time. In the first up, test format match against India A, he belted a superb 150, and then went 20 odd not out in the second dig to see the game home.
Last up is Usman Kahwaja. It looks like the selectors have shown their hand in giving him the Captaincy of the Australia A team. He was in devastating 50 over form before he did his ACL at the start of the Shield season. The A tour has been his first hit out since. He opened with Bancroft in the test format match against India A, and scored a patient 33 of 93 balls. The second innings was only a small chase of 62 of which he hit 41 off 23 balls. He has only kept going from there; hitting 73 (82) against South Africa A, and backing it up with a neat 100 (104) against India A yesterday.
So how to start the audition process? I would go straight to Joe Burns. I would grab him as soon as he gets off the field against India A, and put him on a plane to London. He was the incumbent and hasn’t put a foot wrong since. He should get first crack.
Where to put him? Easy. Voges, gone. Sorry mate, it didn’t work out. I’m sure you’re a bloody good bloke, but so is George Bailey and he’s not test material either.
If Clarke wasn’t the Captain he would be gone too. Lucky for him, he is. So he gets the fifth test as his farewell. It’s not good to be sacking a Captain before the end of an Ashes tour. There couldn’t be many things more embarrassing for someone with Clarke’s record than getting slapped in the face with that. He has definitely earnt the right to see it out but the question is how much longer after that?
For me, that’s it. Done. He doesn’t have the form to warrant selection for the series against New Zealand. So who gets his place?
There are a few things to consider before handing out the next cap, like has Shaun Marsh taken Rogers spot at the top of the order? If I was selector, he’s not even in the squad, but he has been hitting some runs in the tour games. Since he refused to make the most of the second innings in this one, he probably has the next test to show that he belongs. Even if he fails at The Oval, it’s likely he will get the 2015/16 season somewhere in the line-up. Currently, there is enough top order talent going around so I actually think he gets the number four spot and we look for a fresh face to partner Warner.
For me, I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to the idea of someone really young like Bancroft getting an extended shot. That being said, Khawaja has put in the hard work to get his second chance. He has made the step up in his first class game and his form has at least given him the right for a good shot at it. He has also just been handed the Captaincy for Queensland, so clearly he is respected for the way he approaches all aspects of the game. Hopefully he gets all six tests to feel at home.
That gives me three changes for The Oval test with the line-up being: Rogers, Warner, Smith(vc), Burns, Clarke(c), Nevill, M Marsh, Johnson, Starc, Cummins and Lyon. Unfortunately, Burns won’t be rushed back so S Marsh will probably take second drop.
For the first test on November 3, my team would be: Khawaja, Warner, Smith(c), S Marsh, Burns, Nevill, M Marsh, Johnson, Starc, Hazelwood and Lyon(vc).
First look across the Gabba XI for a new Vice-Captain had me scratching my head. If the current selectors had the pick i feel like Warner would probably get it. In all honesty he is seriously lacking the material for any form of leadership roll in the Australian cricket team. That’s why I wouldn’t flinch in handing it straight to Lyon. Michael Hussey obviously saw something special in him. To hand the keys to the victory song to him all those years ago, to an outsider was completely out of the blue… looking back its hard to say he was wrong. Lyon has not only slowly and steadily beaten off the competition for the spinners spot, but has become our all time leading off spin wicket taker. He is one of the first picked everyday of the week and on top of that, he is great down to earth bloke that has never put a foot wrong. What a great addition to his story that would be, from curator to VC.
Agree? Disagree? Tell me who and why….