Of course, the Australian selectors need to assess all three rounds of Shield matches before the first test against Pakistan, and seven players seem to be all but confirmed for the starting line-up barring injury.
The key confirmations in the last few days seem come mainly from two matches in Round 1 given conditions at games around the country.
It may seem easy to many cricket enthusiasts to select players on past Australian first-class and Test performance statistics. However, it’s also not appropriate to overlook what was one of the poorest opening performances in Test cricket history during the Ashes, particularly with David Warner who should have led as a senior player in the side, particularly after the events of the last 24 months.
The opening slots should be earnt with good performances in the Shield, but it’s clear most favour Warner.
What we did confirm from the last three days was:
- Marcus Labuschagne confirming his position in the team by playing on a difficult Gabba pitch and scoring double fifties where the first test against Pakistan will be played.
- Mitchell Starc clearly struggling to take wickets on the same pitch, taking just one, albeit Marcus Labuschagne in a poor bowling performance.
- Warner blowing hot and cold with a century and a golden duck, although the first innings was vital to the NSW victory.
- Jhye Richardson putting his hand up for the third pace bowling position with three wickets and very tight economy.
- Notable bowling performances from Jackson Bird taking numerous wickets, Michael Neser taking good wickets but with a slightly more expensive economy rate and an outstanding bowling performance by Harry Conway with ten wickets.
- The openers positions should still firmly up for grabs without any bias, but the best opening innings of the first round were Warner (125) and Joe Burns (52). Marcus Harris and Nic Maddinson batted well in a batting haven given the pitch and conditions so the next two rounds need close inspection with both of them. Both Warner and Burns had notable fails in their other innings. The two opening positions remain up for grabs.
South Australia and Victoria played on a road so I am striking the form lines and performances out for the most part as both sides scored massive totals but Harris, Maddinson, Will Pucovski and Tom Cooper’s innings must be noted of course.
Usman Khawaja, Matt Renshaw, Cameron Bancroft and Mitchell Starc were the notable key failures at the Gabba, which doesn’t bode well for first Test selection.
Of course, it’s clear we need to look at all three rounds, but Labuschagne and Richardson may actually have been the most notable performances for first Test selection followed by Warner.
As it stands, most would confirm Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Tim Paine, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazelwood, Nathan Lyon and probably Matthew Wade as set for the first test.
That means there are still four places up for grabs with two rounds of Shield to go.
Justin Langer and the selectors certainly appear to favour Warner after relentlessly supporting him after so many failures in the UK which were damaging to Australia not winning the series outright.
With limited test cricket in the next year and Warner not getting any younger (32), not to mention the stain he has placed on the country in the last 24 months, there is an argument to provide some experience to younger players going forward in this series who may need vital experience to prepare to travel overseas in 2021 against the major international cricket teams.
Such is the limited schedule for Australian Test cricket due to the T20 commercial emphasis and T20 world cup next year it is vital to consider younger players getting Test experience if possible against lesser opposition if there are any form lapses with the openers and middle order.
With the middle order, Wade made 40 for Tasmania which holds up potentially without being anything too special. Mitchell Marsh and Marcus Stoinis both played well as all-rounders with Marsh shading the bowling with more wickets and better economy rates.
Stoinis shaded the batting with marginally more runs but both made notable runs in both innings. Marsh seems to be shading that race if an all-rounder is to be considered with better bowling and similar batting, but are less likely to be chosen in the five or six slot with Head and Wade.
Notably, Alex Carey made 117 whilst Travis Head only made 50 on the batting road in the game at St Kilda. A close eye on both should be maintained in the next two rounds of Shield cricket.