I think it’s time to do a preview of the first test and have a last guess at the squad for Brisbane.
That way, we can either brag by saying ‘I told you so’ or promptly say the selectors clearly got it wrong.
I’m actually going to start by saying that I’m pretty nervous about getting a blemish on our epic record at The Gabba. The Kiwis will be absolutely licking their lips at the opportunity they have earned.
The Gabba has taken over the WACA as the fastest wicket in this country for a while now. If you have some quality like Southee and Boult on the quickest wicket we can offer, they are already in with a chance. Throw in to the mix our mass retirements in the Aussie ranks (or maybe better described as ‘shovings out the door’) and I think the fear of a loss is fairly justified.
I have to admit, there is small part of me that would like to see the Kiwis get up. You can’t hate them. They play a great brand of cricket and they are led by one of the good guys. McCallum has shaped this team to specifically set themselves to win games; anywhere, anytime.
If you also look at cricket in NZ over the last decade or so, it has been in slow decline. The current All Blacks team is one of the greatest teams to walk onto any field in any sport, which casts a very big shadow. The fact that McCallum has been able to wrestle any interest back into cricket is an achievement in itself. Today’s world of cut throat market share is tough enough without trying to get a slice against one of the world’s most recognisable sports brands. Needless to say a win against Australia, on their own turf would be just the tonic NZ cricket would love to see.
I’m really looking forward to the battle between Kyle Williamson and Steve Smith. They are both young and at the top of their game. We could be watching the start of a decade of battle coming up. Smith obviously has just taken the reins as captain and with McCallum on the cusp of retirement, Williamson would have to be pencilled in for the job if he can keep going.
What about the rest of this Australian team? We know a few people are definitely going to be there; Warner, Smith, M Marsh, Nevil, Starc, Johnson and Lyon. But what about the gaps?
I would be very surprised if Voges isn’t there. Despite essentially taking the entire Ashes series to find his feet, he is probably saved by the fact that it’s a transition period. His old head will be required to bridge the next couple of seasons if he can cement his spot this summer.
So that leaves an opener, top order bat and a quick.
While I think Siddle is basically done, I also think he should keep his place. Siddle earnt the chance to succeed or fail with his efforts in the fifth Ashes test. Hazelwood should have to bang the door down to get back in after failing in the UK. He was in the team for line and length, and failed. I think the long road from his test debut through the World Cup, and on to the Windies and Ashes tours all wore him down, but Siddle did the exact job we need in the third seamer position. Didn’t give them an inch.
The opener, for me actually goes to Joe Burns. They have given him the opening role in the ODI team, and I like the idea of having a Burns/Warner combination in both formats to really let them develop their partnership.
I know the early mail is Bancroft, and I can see why he is fancied. He loves spending time in the middle, builds an innings nicely and seems to have the mindset for big scores. All great qualities in Test opening bat. But for me, I’m not quite sure if he has earned that chance yet. He looked to have a solid U/19’s career and has definitely made the step up to First Class. But in reality, it’s only been one and a half seasons followed by a great showing in the India A Tour.
If you look at Burns, S Marsh and even Khawaja, they have all been around the edges long enough. Burns hasn’t put a foot wrong since his Test debut last summer. If it wasn’t for Voges hitting the fourth highest run total in Shield history last season, Burns could still have the number five spot and made it his own.
I think all three of these guys should be ahead of Bancroft in the pecking order and receive first chance to succeed or fail at the opener’s position while Bancroft gets the chance to show his hunger and form in Shield again this year. If by the end of the summer there is another vacancy, and he has piled the runs on in Shield, then he should be taken to NZ for the three test series.
So that leaves a top order bat.
I have always liked the idea of having your best batsmen at three. Though, in this case I think that Smith has to go down to four, leaving us specifically looking for a number three. I know the company line has been ‘Captain picks the batting line up from the XI selected’ but no one believes for a second that the selectors don’t pick a team with a batting order in mind.
Again, there has been plenty of chat that Khawaja has already got the job. I have no problem with this at all. He has been exiled for few years, changed state teams and gone through injury. To his credit he has come out the other side understanding his game better in all forms and also been named captain of the Bulls.
The only question that this leaves is, why would the selectors all of a sudden leave Marsh out? Why, after sticking with him through thick and thin, would they decide not to give him first crack at one of the two vacant positions in the Australian top six?
There are two obvious explanations. The first is that they have all of a sudden decided that he isn’t up to test standard and that they should look elsewhere. The other is that with all the retirements there is a small panic at the selectors table and they feel the need to look at younger legs to blood for the future.
Looking at Marsh’s recent efforts through the West Indies and the tour matches in the UK, there is actually no reason at all that he wouldn’t immediately be given the openers role. He was pretty much the perfect understudy on that tour. He hit plenty of hundreds and spent lots of time in the middle forming the bases of a partnership with Warner. His only failure was that dreaded fourth test. In my view, that test should be erased from his personal record books. That was a day straight from the depths of hell and he shouldn’t have even been selected in the first place.
In summary, that gives us a batting order of
- M Marsh
Which leaves Marsh punching holes in the walls of the change room.
I guess all will be revealed tonight…
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