TEST RECALL BURNS BRIGHT
CRICKET’S statistical boffins have declared that on numbers alone, Joe Burns is the unluckiest Test batsman in 100 years.
An exclusive analysis by CricViz of the six batsmen vying for two vacancies in the Australian top six provides selectors with some fascinating food for thought as they prepare to pick their side for the first Test at the Gabba.
Not since radio was invented in the 1920s has a batsman from anywhere in the world scored as many Test hundreds for as few opportunities as Burns has been given.
Perennially cast aside and not taken to England for the Ashes despite scoring 180 in his last Test, Burns has an impressive ratio of four hundreds in 16 Tests.
Only one man — Englishman Jack Russell in the 1920s — has played so few Tests with as many centuries as Burns.
“You could argue that Burns was unlucky not to go on that Ashes trip because he scored a lot of runs there last year,” said Fox Cricket expert Andrew Symonds.
“Unfortunately for him (he hasn’t knocked the door down this summer) … but I’m not saying he can’t press for selection, because there’s still (time).”
Whether this will count for anything when the team is picked later this week remains to be seen, with the five contenders — Burns, Marcus Harris, Usman Khawaja, Travis Head and Will Pucovski — bracing for an old-fashioned shootout this week as they form the top six for Australia A in a tour game against Pakistan.
Harris and veteran Khawaja are potentially ahead of Burns in the current pecking order for the chance to be David Warner’s opening partner in Brisbane.
Victorian Harris was badly exposed during the Ashes, but has started the domestic season better than his rivals, while Khawaja has by far the best international record of any of the challengers — only with no current form to hang his hat on.
During the Ashes, Australia axed top order men Cameron Bancroft and Khawaja, and would have chopped Harris if only Burns — a right-hander to combat Stuart Broad — hadn’t been left at home.
The other vacancy for the first Test is at No. 5 — with Head and Pucovski in the running.
“I’d like to see Pucovski take one of the batting spots … It’s a good series to play these (young) guys in,” said Fox Cricket commentator Allan Border.
“You’d almost tell him at the start of the series, ‘mate, you’re in, just show us what you can do and don’t be watching over your shoulder for the selectors’ tap’.
“He’s done enough to deserve it. It’s not as if you’re just picking someone out of nowhere — he’s scored the runs. Marcus Harris is the frontrunner (to open), but he’s under pressure.
CricViz has highlighted that Head has the best record of any Australian since “Sandpapergate” but played an alarming number of false shots in England to be dropped for the final Test.
Pucovski is statistically ready for the elevation into the Test ranks, but is the fact many of his runs have come on batter-friendly pitches in Melbourne cause for concern?
Australia A goes in to battle with Pakistan tomorrow, with selectors to announce their first Test team by the end of the week.
Cameron Bancroft was yesterday thrown an outside chance of Test redemption when he was called into the Australia A squad as an 11th-hour replacement for Nic Maddinson (withdrawn for mental health reasons).
If he was to fire against Pakistan this week and the other candidates failed, he could not be discounted.