The Bangladeshi tour cancellation has triggered a Tour de France-esque race for Test selection ahead of a packed Australian summer of cricket. With all the international players returning to their respective state teams, eyes suddenly fell upon Australia’s domestic one-day competition, giving future Test hopefuls the opportunity to shine amongst their nations regulars. If there’s ever a silver lining to emerge from reports of terrorist strikes targeting Australian citizens, it may as well be a star studded Matador Cup line up boasting some of the games brightest lights, and that’s what we got. With the announcement of the Australia Test squad set to be revealed today, player’s attention won’t be far away from their phones as they await Marsh and Co’s verdict.
Ahead of this announcement, the Cricket Connoisseur looks at some of the key internal battles in the Australian camp as competition for places heats up;
David Warner proved his fitness with a well crafted 76 on day one of NSW’s Sheffield Shield match against South Australia. Who he’ll open up with is far less of a certainty as Bancroft, Burns, Khawaja and Shaun Marsh battle it out for the number 2 and 3 spots. Off the back of a successful last Shield season (896 runs) and an impressive Australia A tour Cameron Bancroft looks set to win his first cap as the selectors aim to secure a long term replacement for Chris Rogers. With Smith making noises about moving back down to 4, selectors may decide to move Shaun Marsh up into first drop, Khawaja will be breathing down his neck should there be a slump in performances.
Veteran Adam Voges looks likely to retain his number 5 spot as he made runs in both the PM’s and CA XI’s before compiling an assured 71 against Tasmania on Wednesday. Burns would be the other option for the middle order having debuted there against India last summer. Under his sheer weight of runs, Michael Klinger is becoming harder and harder to ignore, scoring a masterful 202* in Hobart yesterday.
It should go without saying that Steve Smith will keep his spot as in the line-up, looking likely from number 4.
Mitchell Marsh’s bowling should provide him enough to keep him in the side over James Faulkner as the team’s sole all-rounder. I don’t believe selectors will go down the Glen Maxwell route, with Nathan Lyon still being considered the side’s best spinner.
It would be a big shock if Peter Nevil didn’t keep the gloves, with his main competition Matthew Wade lacking form behind the stumps. Tim Paine would be an outsider off the back of an impressive Matador Cup showing.
Despite his modest Ashes showing Mitchell Starc has been on scintillating form and is an absolute certainty for the first Test in Brisbane. With a devastating Shield performance against South Australia and 26 Matador Cup scalps at 8.12 to his name who could ignore the left-armer. Mitchell Johnson is likely to keep his place, but will have to continue to settle for first-change.
The 3rd seamers position is harder to call, with Josh Hazlewood, Peter Siddle and outsider James Pattinson being considered. After a long rest since the Ashes, Hazlewood returned to produce a MOTM display for NSW in the Matador Cup final, and has reportedly found some good rhythm in the last two weeks. Whilst the New South Welshman is considered favourite for the role, Peter Siddle’s control and economical nature would be more compatible with the less economical Starc and Johnson.
Nathan Lyon is set to continue his in his role as the teams sole spinner, as Fawed Ahmed and Stephen O’Keefe are likely to come up short.
Cricket Connoisseur XI:
Warner, Bancroft, S Marsh, Smith, Voges, M Marsh, Nevil, Johnson, Starc, Siddle, Lyon
Although a Test call up this summer would be unlikely, a consistent group of performers have reinforced their case for consideration with some dominant Matador Cup displays. Members of the chasing pack include the likes of Nic Madinson, Nathan Reardon, Tim Paine, Travis Head, John Hastings and Callum Ferguson.