HEAD OF STEAM
Ashes call-up looms for attacking South Australian
THE first Ashes Test is just a month away and debate lingers over a few positions in our Australian team.
The three positions up for deliberation are the No. 3 batting position, the No. 6 batting all-rounder position and the crucial role of wicketkeeper at No.7.
The rest of the line up is most likely locked away, unless something extraordinary jumps up in the first three Sheffield Shield matches in the coming weeks.
David Warner and Matt Renshaw will walk to the middle to open our innings at the Gabba on November 23.
It is widely tipped that Usman Khawaja will have the pads on at No. 3, waiting for his chance to redeem himself after being dropped in Bangladesh.
Khawaja has a better record at home as opposed to away on the spinning subcontinent pitches.
Shaun Marsh will make a play but I’m not sure the selectors will go back down that path.
The only other option here is for captain Steven Smith to assume the No. 3 role, which he did in the second Test in Bangladesh.
The position of that elusive batting allrounder will be hotly debated again and sadly Keith Miller still has not been reincarnated, therefore I would suggest picking the best batting option and be done with it.
This position will cause most discussion around the selection table. Medium pace all-rounder Mitch Marsh, who has failed in 21 Tests, is a long way back now, although high hopes are held for him to one day nail down this position.
The latest name to be talked about is Marcus Stoinis, who recently returned home to Western Australia, ironically to play alongside Marsh in the same state side and, even more bizarre, next to Hilton Cartwright, who also lays claims to the coveted No. 6 poison chalice.
Cartwright is the incumbent but will he hold his position for Brisbane? It’s fair to say the Western Australian batting order will be interesting this summer as players jostle for positions.
Two part-time off-spinning aggressive batsmen are the two I would be deliberating over and both will cause headaches due to their inconsistency.
Glenn Maxwell, who played the last Test match batting at No. 5, must be the frontrunner to start in the Ashes series.
If the selectors are true to their word, the first three Shield fixtures may determine this spot as Maxwell left the door ajar after scores of 23, 14, 38 and 25 not out in Bangladesh.
Travis Head is my selection and, if the selectors agree, they must pick and stick. Left-handed, aggressive and tough is what this young man will bring to the table.
He, like Maxwell, can change the complexion of games in a session and that is the type of player I would pick at No. 6 to bat behind Peter Handscomb at No. 5 and ahead of the wicketkeeper at No.7.
Head would have been hoping for a better showing in the recent ODI series in India, where he displayed glimpses of his skill but never convinced the selectors to lock him in.
The spotlight will fall squarely on him when South Australia meets a fullstrength New South Wales in Adelaide for the first day-night Shield game, starting on October 27.
The Test bowling attack of Mitch Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon will be the greatest examination of his technique and temperament in his still embryonic career.
If he can stand up with a big score in that Shield game, I believe he will win the race for the No. 6 position.
The wicketkeeping position is still in limbo — as it has been since Brad Haddin was left out during the last Ashes series in the UK.
Peter Nevill replaced him and it appeared initially that he would lock this position down for the next six-seven years.
This has proven a volatile revolving door as Nevill and Matthew Wade have passed the baton to each other several times across all formats of the game.
Now Tim Paine has worn the gloves in the recently completed T20 series in India and been more than handy just to cloud the matter even further.
The best gloveman in the country is Nevill so give him the gloves and stick with him for the summer.
He will provide some backbone and steel with the bat while Head and Starc either side of him provides fluency and power.