Bring on the Poms
We’re a week out from the first Test at Trent Bridge, and new coach Darren Lehmann didn’t mess around with making his mark felt, albeit in the form of a couple of drip fed team announcements. First he announced that Shane Watson would return to the top of the order for the first time since 2011 and then just prior to the final tour match he confirmed that Chris Rogers would be his opening partner, returning to the side some 5 years after he originally debuted. As a result, gone from the top are both Cowan and Warner, with the former probably a little more unlucky even despite the lack of big runs.
The new partnership got off to a pretty good start last night with Watson belting a 90-odd ball ton (his first first-class century in almost 3 years) and Rogers compiling 75 of his own on the way to an opening stand of 170 against Worcestershire. Displaced opener Cowan came in at three and notched a 50 of his own. His appearance at three aligns with what I’ve seen several people suggest following the announcement that Rogers would open. Personally, I had expected Rogers to slot in at three (with Ed staying as opener) when he was first announced in the squad, but I’m ok with them being swapped around.
As for the other discarded opener, many have been stating for a while that Warner should drop to 6. Although if you ask some they’d prefer he dropped off the planet entirely, I’m not nearly that harsh but I don’t really see his swashbuckling style working that low in the order. Especially if the top order falls back into the struggles that they had in India. I guess he could still reappear higher than 6, but it feels unlikely.
Lower down, I’d like to see Clarke drop back to 5, I know plenty believe that because he’s our best batsman, and because he’s captain, that he should be moving up the order to at least 4. I disagree, and I’ve covered that before. So with the skipper at 5, who comes in ahead of him? I’m going with Phil Hughes, sure he didn’t have the best time in India, but none of batsmen really did. He did however have a solid Aussie summer and it was a good English County season the year prior that helped earn him the test recall following Ricky Ponting’s retirement. So, if Ed plays at 3, I’ve got Phil at 4. But both need to be aware there are others waiting in the wings to steal their spots – Usman Khawaja must be itching for another shot in the top order.
6 and 7 is where I come undone. The composition of the team will likely determine where Haddin lands. If they play the extra batsman he’ll probably come in at 7, but if it ends up being an extra bowler/all-rounder then he might slide up to 6. The question is, which option will the selectors go for? The battle for the remaining batting spot appears to probably be a three way battle between Warner, Khawaja and Faulkner. While theoretically an option, I think it’s unlikely that they’d look at playing Matthew Wade as a specialist batsman. Steve Smith on the other hand – although technically still a ‘cover’ player – continues to push his case following up runs for Australia A a couple of weeks ago with more quick runs in the current tour match as I write this. The fact that Warner hasn’t played at all since the “incident”, and Khawaja wasn’t picked for the final tour match could however have things leaning in Smith’s favour.
Now that Watto is back bowling – the extent to which he gets used over the course of a full test match is yet to be seen – it could be argued that there is no place for another bowling all-rounder – in this case, Faulkner – in the the final 11. On recent team form, you’d think the selectors are probably more inclined to opt for the extra batsman over the all-rounder – unless Watson’s fitness is still a genuine concern for them.
So the arrangement of 6 and 7 has me in a pickle, I can’t make up my mind. Part of me wants Khawaja to finally be given another run. Part of me thinks Warner probably doesn’t deserve to lose his spot for a little off-field nonsense. Part of me wants to see Faulkner be given an opportunity to mess with the Poms early in the series. Part of me wonders if Steve Smith could pull a swift one and land himself in a side that he wasn’t even originally selected for. I’d probably be relatively ok with any of the options.
The bowling side of things seems easy to pick, although I could be completely wrong. Jackson Bird impressed at the tail end of the Aussie summer, but you’d be forgiven for not realising he was in India, and I’m a big fan of Ryan Harris, but I don’t think either of them make it into the top three if they’re going for the ‘best’ line up. For me, it has to be Siddle, Pattinson and Starc. In terms of spin Nathan Lyon is the only option, and that’s fine, it needs no lengthy discussion – Agar can watch and learn, while Fawad Ahmed can head off to South Africa in a couple of weeks with the Aussie A side to push his case for a looking in the second leg of the Ashes this summer.
Bring on the late nights followed by zombie-brain at work.
Bring on the Poms.