Batting picture still unclear
Tourists thrash county hosts but selection questions remain ahead of Manchester
AUSTRALIA completed a Saturday rout at Derbyshire and headed to Manchester with a fourth Test selection conundrum remaining after a less than helpful batting examination in northern England.
Mitch Marsh took two wickets in three balls, then Mitchell Starc the final two in two balls, giving him 7-85 for the match as the tourists completed a comprehensive innings and 54-run win.
The real selection questions, however, hover over the batting and while the Aussies only lost five wickets in compiling 338, the runs made by those looking to stay in the team when Steve Smith returns were viewed with a little scepticism.
One of the batsmen who could make way for Smith, opener Marcus Harris, was quarantined from teammates yesterday after coming down with a mild stomach bug. The Victorian, who was run out for 62 while batting with Usman Khawaja on Friday, even had to sit at the front of the team bus on the way to the ground.
He didn’t field as Australia tried to bowl out the home team for a second time.
But Harris said he just felt “a bit crook in the guts” but it wouldn’t keep him from the fourth Test, if selected.
Chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns watched the entire game from high in the grandstand, in constant conversation with coach and co-selector Justin Langer, who didn’t attend the last tour game in Worcester.
They have to find a way to make room for Smith and not affect team balance. The options include dumping Harris after just one Test, and opening with Khawaja, to ensure the batting line-up has as much Test experience as possible. But Khawaja has yet to post a 50 in six innings in the series and his average batting in England has dropped to 19.
Selectors waited until the night before the third Test at Headingley to tell Harris he was replacing Cameron Bancroft. It’s likely the same scenario could apply for the fourth Test, which begins at Old Trafford in Manchester on Wednesday.
The bowling line-up of Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, James Pattinson and Nathan Lyon could be picked again, after all were rested from the tour match.
Lyon was jogging yesterday morning, showing no signs of being hampered after the spinner rolled his ankle during a training drill on Wednesday. Despite taking his seven wickets for the game, Starc remains only an outside chance to play in