PUZ­ZLE MUST BE SOLVED

Warner, Smith to slot straight in, but how do the rest fit?

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) - - Cricket -

AUS­TRALIAN cricket is in a strange po­si­tion, one we don’t re­ally want to be in with such a mas­sive year to come.

The in­ter­na­tional sum­mer is done; that’s six Tests, one day games and T20s against South Africa, In­dia and Sri Lanka, nearly 60 games of Big Bash, plus we’ve had six rounds of Sh­effield Shield played be­fore Christ­mas, as well as the JLT Cup one-day com­pe­ti­tion, but we still don’t know what the best Aus­tralian teams are and we should.

Steve Smith and Dave Warner are straight back in to both the Test and one-day sides when their sus­pen­sions end — they are class — just in time for the World Cup and the Ashes. And through the two Test se­ries, against In­dia and Sri Lanka, we have seen sev­eral play­ers emerge, which is great.

But they are all just the puz­zle pieces. How they best fit to­gether, to win a World Cup and then the Ashes, is hard to know.

The play­ers’ per­for­mances against the worst Sri Lankan team to tour Aus­tralia shouldn’t cloud our judg­ment ei­ther.

All you can do is beat the op­po­si­tion in front of you, al­beit a very de­pleted one, and Aus­tralia did that com­pre­hen­sively.

But the Test se­ries against In­dia was where the play­ers should be judged.

The fi­nal rounds of Shield cricket could pro­duce a bolter too, a bats­men or a bowler, to book a trip to Eng­land.

There’s no point mak­ing pre­dic­tions about what might hap­pen given there are still so many un­knowns about what the Aussie teams may look like. THE BATS­MEN I def­i­nitely have David Warner and Joe Burns open­ing. And my num­ber three is ei­ther Mar­cus Har­ris or Cameron Ban­croft.

I like Har­ris at num­ber three. I think he’s a very ag­gres­sive player. I think the num­ber three has to play that way. The best Aus­tralian num­ber threes, like Ian Chap­pell, David Boon or Ricky Ponting, they have all been ag­gres­sive.

Ban­croft might be a sur­prise to some, but he was the firstchoice opener be­fore his sus­pen­sion, and while he hasn’t been spo­ken about much, he makes my squad. He can also go as the back-up keeper. This means Us­man Kha­jawa misses out on the start­ing side. He got a hun­dred in the last Test in­nings of the sum­mer but un­til then, he hadn’t per­formed. He has played a lot of Test cricket now, and he was our most ex­pe­ri­enced bats­man this sum­mer, we re­ally needed him, and he went miss­ing. Ev­ery­one is go­ing to fail some times, and go through a lull, but it was the way he got out at times which was a huge con­cern. He tours Eng­land, but as backup.

In English con­di­tions you need at­tack­ing bats­man at the top. You have to take the game to the bowlers. You can’t sit on guys like Jimmy An­der­son, and an open­ing three of Warner, Burns and Har­ris, is a good, pos­i­tive top three.

Smith walks straight in at four, and Travis Head comes in at five. Head was the bats­men of the sum­mer. There were a few head-scratch­ing mo­ments, like when he was caught twice at third man in the sec­ond Test in Perth, but he also gets the most im­proved tro­phy.

Kur­tis Pat­ter­son misses out in the start­ing team, but only be­cause I am go­ing for the all­rounder, Mar­cus Stoi­nis, at six. You are go­ing to need that ex­tra bowler. Peo­ple are talk­ing about his first class num­bers maybe not be­ing too over­whelm­ing, but you could say that about the first class num­bers of most of the Aus­tralian play­ers at the mo­ment.

This sum­mer Stoi­nis has grown as a player. Ev­ery­thing he’s been asked to do; make runs in ODIs, T20s or the Big Bash, and that’s all he can play right now, or take wick­ets when the game has been on the line, he has de­liv­ered. I think the penny has dropped, and along with that x-fac­tor he brings, I think he will thrive in the heat of an Ashes bat­tle. I think he could be the dif­fer­ence. THE BOWLERS Pat Cum­mins, Nathan Lyon and Josh Ha­zle­wood pick them­selves, and Jhye Richard­son gets that fi­nal

fast bowl­ing spot in the first XI.

Mitch Starc’s 10 wick­ets against a de­pleted and in­ex­pe­ri­enced Sri Lanka, for me it wasn’t enough. I go back to ev­ery­thing he has done over the past 12 months, and even in Canberra, he went for 11 off the first over of the Test. The first few overs have to set the tone, and he’s not do­ing that. He’s been taken off af­ter two or three overs ev­ery in­nings be­cause he’s been spray­ing the ball all over the place, plus he av­er­ages over 50 with the ball against top six bats­men.

I still think Mitch Starc has a huge role to play if Aus­tralia are to win the Ashes, but he doesn’t start at Edg­bas­ton. Jhye Richard­son has been im­pres­sive, he bowls a Test match length, and the late swing he gets will be per­fect in Eng­land. He has to play, he’ll chal­lenge the English top-or­der.

THE EX­TRAS

The back-up bats­men are Khawaja, Ban­croft and Pat­ter­son, with D’Arcy Short too. Short goes as an all­rounder, be­cause of his spin. If some­thing hap­pens to Nathan Lyon, you can draft some­one in, but Short is an op­tion any­where in the top six.

An ex­tra fast bowler could come from Dan Wor­rall, Chris Tre­main, Peter Sid­dle or Scott Boland. The sec­ond half of the Shield sea­son, when they get to bowl with the Dukes ball, could de­ter­mine who gets that spot. Mar­nus Labuschange doesn’t make the squad, be­cause with Warner and Smith com­ing back, some­one has to give way.

If Will Pu­cov­ski had been picked in the first Test against Sri Lanka at the Gabba, and he should’ve been picked, he would have made a cen­tury in one of the in­nings he got, and we could have taken him to the Ashes. He has to wait now.

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