Australia’s new-look batting group will be unveiled on Friday when the squad for the first Test against New Zealand at the Gabba is named. Openers Cameron Bancroft and Joe Burns, and top-order batsman Usman Khawaja are all hoping to be part of the squad despite failing in their final chance to impress the selectors during their Sheffield Shield innings on Wednesday.
All three men, plus Shaun Marsh, were part of the 15-strong outfit named last month for the Test tour of Bangladesh, but the abandonment of that trip has left question-marks over who will be favoured for the first Test of the home summer. The Brisbane match will be Australia’s first Test since the retirements of Michael Clarke and Chris Rogers, key members of the top five over the past two years.
David Warner was set to miss the Bangladesh tour due to a fractured thumb, but he is fit to play in Brisbane and the identity of his new opening partner remains a mystery. Bancroft, 22, may get the nod as a red-ball specialist and long-term prospect, although Burns scored a century in a tour match against New Zealand at the weekend and performed well in two Tests last summer.
Khawaja appears likely to move into the No. 3 position, with captain Steven Smith considering a move down to No. 4, and Adam Voges looks set to retain his place at No. 5. That would mean the only way Burns and Bancroft could both fit into the XI would be if the selectors abandon their preference for an allrounder at No. 6, an improbable move given how keen they have been on a fifth bowling option.
It is not out of the question that Bancroft, Burns and Khawaja could all be named in a 13-man squad, with a final decision on the XI to be made in the lead-up to the Test. All three men were comprehensively outperformed in the ongoing Sheffield Shield round by Michael Klinger, whose double-century was his 14th hundred of the past year across all formats, but his age – 35 – will go against him.
Retired captain Michael Clarke wrote in his News Ltd column on Thursday that his preference would be for Shaun Marsh to open with Warner, but that would seem a retrograde step given the opportunities he has already had. Marsh scored two centuries in the recent Matador Cup competition but managed 0 and 2 when called into the Test team during the Ashes at Trent Bridge.
Mitchell Johnson will be back in the squad after he was to be rested for the Bangladesh tour, and Josh Hazlewood may also slip back into the group after being dropped for the final Test of the Ashes series. Mitchell Starc should be a guaranteed starter given his recent form, and Peter Siddle will hope to retain his place in the squad after impressing when he replaced Hazlewood at The Oval.
Gone from the 15-man squad named for the Bangladesh tour will be fast bowler Pat Cummins, who has again suffered a back injury, and there is unlikely to be room for any of Andrew Fekete, Steve O’Keefe or Glenn Maxwell, all of whom were part of the Bangladesh squad. The squad will be named early on Friday afternoon in Adelaide.
Probable squad David Warner, Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja, Joe Burns, Steven Smith, Adam Voges, Mitchell Marsh, Peter Nevill, Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc, Peter Siddle, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood.
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.