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Hughes v. Khawaja v. Marsh

The Australian selectors have a predicament (just for change), the batting line-up for the first test in Sri Lanka will have a new flavour to it, but just how ‘new’ will it be? This comes as a result of the crazy sacking of Simon Katich, and Steve Smith’s unlucky omission from the squad. The beneficiaries of these decisions are Phil Hughes, Usman Khawaja and Shaun Marsh.

Fox Sports believe its a battle between Khawaja and Marsh for the number six spot vacated by Smith. I believe it might be a little more complicated than that. In my mind the second openers spot is still up for grabs as well – a spot that both Marsh and Khawaja could easily fill. I’ve got nothing against Hughes, he may very well be the best man for the job, I’m just not sure he’s done enough to have made the spot his own.

The case for Hughes.

He’s been seen as the ‘next in line’ for several years, and looked very promising in his first couple of tests, but in the limited chances he’s had recently in the test arena he has struggled a little – particularly when compared to Watson, not to mention Katich, the guy whose shoes he’s trying to fill. He finished the shield season with a couple of strong performances which should count for something when picking the final eleven. If Hughes remains in the team it will be as opener, I don’t see the selectors trying him further down the order.

The case for Khawaja.

He filled in at number three for the injured Ponting at the end of last summer, and even with Ponting coming back into the squad he’s held onto his spot in the squad. Ponting will no doubt return to his traditional spot in the lineup, so you would assume that leave Khawaja looking at the number six. Ideally I’d like to see him higher up the order, but when the three, four and five are occupied by Ponting, Clarke and Hussey that makes it a little difficult. Is Khawaja suited to this lower order position? Perhaps at test level he is, at least for the time being. Ponting and Clarke both spent their early test careers at number 6. Form and patience willing, Khawaja will get his spot higher up.

The case for Marsh.

Probably the unexpected batsman in the test squad as we’re more used to seeing him in the one-day and T20 sides He’s only had limited opportunities in recent years at shield level due to injuries – but when he has been in the side he’s done well, averaging over 60 according to the Fox Sports article. Many would argue he’s only in the running for the number six, but I think he’d have to be under consideration for the openers spot too – especially if Hughes slips. Those same people would probably argue that his style doesn’t suit Test cricket, but then again whoever though Shane Watson’s style would either? Personally the thought of a Watson/Marsh opening combo is tempting.

So what will they do?

  • The ‘safe’ option would be Hughes opening with Watson, and Khawaja at the six.
  • If you believe Hughes has the opening spot locked up, and recent form counts, then its likely that Marsh could get his chance at the six.
  • I wouldn’t mind seeing Marsh opening with Watson, and Khawaja at six… But that would be quite harsh on Hughes.
  • Other *crazy* options could be things like open with Marsh, stick Khawaja at three, and push Ponting back to five… had Ponting’s not shown improved form int he recent one-dayers then I believe this might have been considered – but at least for the moment I think it’s unlikely.

Possible Eleven (I’m still undecided on the bowlers)

  1. S. Watson
  2. P. Hughes
  3. R. Ponting
  4. M. Clarke
  5. M. Hussey
  6. U. Khawaja
  7. B. Haddin
  8. M. Johnson
  9. P. Siddle
  10. R. Harris
  11. N. Lyon / M. Beer

My Eleven (and I’m glad I’m not a selector)

There are a couple I wish I could pick in the team, like Hauritz and Katich, and other than Johnson I’m a bit undecided on the bowlers (where’s Dougie!?). I’d also be tempted to put Khawaja at five and push Mr Cricket to six as his extra experience would be beneficial when it comes to batting with the tail.

  1. S. Watson
  2. S. Marsh
  3. R. Ponting
  4. M. Clarke
  5. U. Khawaja
  6. M. Hussey
  7. B. Haddin
  8. M. Johnson
  9. P. Siddle
  10. R. Harris
  11. N. Lyon