Is it time for pink-ball specialists?
What if, just like one-day and twenty20 cricket, pink-ball test cricket is something that requires a slightly different skill set? What if an increase number of day-night tests sees the evolution of pink-ball specialists? What if this is how Glenn Maxwell returns to the Australian Test side?
After the complete capitulation of the Australian side at the hands of a depleted South African side – yes depleted, there’s no AB de Villiers, and no Steyn – the majority of the spots in the side seem to up for grabs. Following the Hobart shambles, Smith, Warner, Starc and Hazlewood were the only ones identified as ‘safe’. Realistically a few others are probably also safe, surely they’re not going to re-cast 63% of the team in a mad panic following Rod Marsh’s resignation as chairman of selectors.
With that in mind, and the looming pink-ball tests – remember we get two of them this year – could this be a test team that we see in the very near future.
David Warner and… Usman Khawaja
Warner is safe, and honestly needs to be retained just so there is some semblance of stability at the top of the order. Who would have ever imagined we’d be saying that about Davey 6 or 7 years ago?
Joe Burns will be unlucky if he gets dropped having only just re-entered the team following Shaun Marsh’s injured finger. However, since his ton to open the shield season his last 6 innings have returned just 4, 7, 1, 0, 4, and 2. Even despite that early ton being in the pink-ball shield round, the situation doesn’t seem promising for Joe.
His Queensland teammate Usman Khawaja could be the one to displace him – at least until SOS is healthy again and then I’d be bringing him back in (you can disagree, that’s fine) and shuffling everyone back down a spot with a handful fighting over the 5-6-7 spots.
Other options like Cameron Bancroft or Travis Dean don’t really factor in for me as they’ve both had lean openings to the current season (ignoring Dean’s ton in the current shield round). Someone like Marcus Harris could be a long shot to fill the openers spot. But counting against all of them is inexperience, especially if the selection is temporary until Marsh returns, surely its better to stick with experience.
Steven Smith, Peter Handscomb, and Callum Ferguson
Steve is skipper, he’s still our best batsman, and he was the only one that looked like he maybe still knew how to bat in the Aussies first innings in Hobart. Play him at three – while Khawaja opens – I know he probably prefers to bat four or five, but it’s probably not fair to expose the likes of Ferguson or Handscomb at first drop.
Peter Handscomb has been putting up consistent numbers, topped off by a big double ton in the current shield round batting at four for the Bushrangers albeit against a Blues attack missing Starc and Hazlewood. He also had a hundred in last year’s day-night shield round, and 96 in the corresponding round the year before that. Plus, while he may only be the backup keeper in Victorian shield team behind Matthew Wade, if he gets a baggy green and then starts making runs he could put pressure on Nevill.
In Callum Ferguson’s favour is that he made a ton in the pink-ball round to open this year’s shield season, and plays his home cricket at the Adelaide oval. On top of that neither of his dismissals in Hobart were really his fault. He was run out in the ridiculousness of the first innings and then caught out by a non-bouncing bouncer in the second. Sure, if he fails again maybe you revisit his selection prior to the Pakistan series, but for now I think he holds his spot – especially with Voges struggling for form, and possibly unavailable following a blow to the head in his latest shield innings, whether or not that s the last we see of Voges in the baggy green I’m not sure.
Ok, you can hate this selection as much, or as little, as you like. You can hate it because you don’t like us playing an all-rounder, you can hate it because you’d rather they played a specialist batsmen at 6, or you can hate it because you don’t like Glenn Maxwell, I don’t really care.
I’m picking Glenn Maxwell for three reasons. Unlike Mitch Marsh who is really a bowling all-rounder, I see Maxi as clearly a batting all-rounder.
One. I believe he is good enough to bat six in the test team so long as you can accept that he will occasionally do something silly and throw his wicket away – remember his first-class average of 41.6 is better than Burns 38.9, Ferguson 39.8, Bailey 39.75, Nevill 37.6, S Marsh 40.7 and M Marsh 29.5.
Two. He doesn’t take a ton of wickets, but his off-spinners can be handy and this game is in theoretically spin-friendly conditions at the Adelaide Oval.
Three. This is a pink ball test. Maybe there is a place for pink-ball specialists, and maybe this is Maxi’s gateway into a larger role in the test team.
Aston Agar might wish he hadn’t missed this round of shield cricket as he could easily fill this same role – he’s a better bowler, and has shown that he’s a more than comparable batter on his day.
Of course if selectors want to go a more ‘traditional’ route, and they probably will, they could do worse than giving George Bailey a recall – if there weren’t other fresh faces in the side I’d be open to giving someone like Kurtis Patterson a spot, but Bailey’s experience would be invaluable to the balance of the side just as Voges’, Rogers’ and Hussey’s has been over the past several years.
I still think Peter Nevill is the best keeping option, but he would undoubtedly like more runs as he’s only averaging 22 across his 17 tests (Wade was averaging 34 before he was dropped). Working in his advantage should be the fact that he showed more spine than most of his teammates in Perth when they were trying (unrealistically) to salvage a draw.
If/when Shaun Marsh returns I wouldn’t be surprised to see Handscomb, Ferguson, Nevill and whoever bats 6 in Adelaide fighting over the 5-6-7 spots for the Pakistan series.
Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, and Chadd Sayers
Starc and Hazlewood are both safe. Mitch has his killer yorkers, destroys wickets for fun, and has zero body language issues (anyone else notice during the first two Tests just how much praise Warnie has gushed over Starc, complete opinion shift from previous years). Hazlewood started the series well, he’s dependable, consistent and provide a solid partnership together with NSW teammate Starc.
The obvious, and perhaps more likely selection is Jackson Bird, however I’m not against the idea of swapping Mennie for his Redbacks teammate, Chadd Sayers.
Sayers is the leading wicket taker in this year’s shield season – including match figure of 11/76 in the destruction of Tasmania at the Adelaide Oval just a couple of weeks ago (he also too 10/77 against them at the same ground last season too). Often overlooked because he’s not express pace, but consistent wickets and familiarity with the Adelaide oval would be enough for me to give him a run. At least while the more known quantities of Siddle, Cummins and Pattinson aren’t available.
Nathan Lyon is the number one spin option and I won’t hear another argument against it. If he has any confidence issues, they’re a result of everyone constantly questioning his place in the team. He’s our greatest off spinner and leading wicket taker over the past five years by a distance (his 201 wickets lead Siddle in second on just 129). He can’t take full blame for lack of wickets when he’s either getting under bowled by Smith or having to bowl trying to project the miserable run total his teammates put together. If another spinner plays, it’s in addition to Lyon, not instead of.
So, what’s that leave us with. Well, it’s actually only three changes. Handscomb, Maxwell and Sayers for Burns, Voges and Mennie.
- David Warner (vc)
- Usman Khawaja
- Steven Smith (c)
- Peter Handscomb
- Callum Ferguson
- Glenn Maxwell
- Peter Nevill (wk)
- Mitchell Starc
- Josh Hazlewood
- Chadd Sayers
- Nathan Lyon
That won’t be the side for the Adelaide test, but it would be interesting if it were.