Cameron Bancroft must play in Brisbane, but who does he replace?

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    Western Australian opening batsman and wicketkeeper Cameron Bancroft must play in the first Test for Australia, but with plenty of players in a form rut just over a week before the first Test, the question of who he should replace remains in the balance.

    Bancroft has been sensational in his last three innings. A fortnight ago, his name was nowhere to be seen in Ashes conversations, but a big century against South Australia on Day 1 seems to have made a case that he must be included.

    With the side being named on Wednesday, players are just about out of chances to impress the selectors, and Bancroft put a highlighter over his name yesterday.

    If 76 not out and 86 against New South Wales and the Australian attack wasn’t enough last round, then going to stumps on 161 not out, with others struggling around the country, sure should be.

    The real question left for the selection panel to decipher is where Bancroft will play in the side. While he is a wicketkeeper, his Shield runs, scored against quality attacks, have been made from the top of the order.

    While the New South Wales attack featured Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Patrick Cummins and Nathan Lyon last week, the South Australian attack he came up against yesterday is nothing to be sneezed at either.

    It was headlined by Chadd Sayers, Kane Richardson, Daniel Worrall and Joe Mennie and while conditions were favourable for batting at the W.A.C.A, players still had to make the most of their conditions. That’s something Shaun Marsh and Hilton Cartwright weren’t able to do at the top of the order, falling for 17 and 35 respectively – but more on them shortly.

    Batting conditions were less than friendly in the other two games which got underway around the country yesterday, but Matt Renshaw and Matthew Wade both continue to stick their hands up as players in form that suggests they shouldn’t be there on November 23.

    Renshaw fell for just 16 to the bowling of Trent Copeland yesterday, while Wade made just five from 42 balls before falling to Peter Siddle. It’s his second grinding innings in a row, and even if he is keeping semi-decent by his usual standards, it’s production with the bat which has long kept him in the side.

    Right now, he isn’t doing that. Wade’s form is horrific, and while nor Peter Nevill or Alex Carey batted yesterday, at this point, given the runs they have scored across the first two rounds, it doesn’t matter all that much. It’s clear Bancroft is the key challenger to Wade.

    Questions remain over the Western Australian’s ability behind the sticks, but he has put together more than enough dismissals to illustrate he is perfectly competent and would do at least a similar job to Wade, while likely producing more with the bat.

    Simply put, Bancroft is the best man for the job.

    One thing the selectors won’t do in Test cricket is bat their keeper at the top. It’s not going to happen, so mark him in for seven if Wade is to be dropped, which appears as if it needs to happen.

    It still leaves the questions about Renshaw though. Plenty, myself included, had started to doubt his spot last week, but falling to the bowling of Trent Copeland yesterday – albeit in tough conditions – has put him under added pressure.

    Matt Renshaw bats during a test match against India

    (AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade)

    The problem is a lack of replacements. Shaun Marsh has made two good scores during the opening rounds of the Shield, but by this point, you wonder if he has ran out of chances with the selectors.

    Victorian Marcus Harris is one player who hasn’t been mentioned. He is probably a long way away from being selected, but after a century in tough conditions last round and an aggressive 61 not out to stumps yesterday, he must be on the selectors’ radar for later in the series if he can keep similar levels of form.

    For now, Renshaw is probably still in the XI to be picked on Wednesday, but there will be a couple of sleepless nights ahead for the Queenslander, given his last chance to impress has just come and gone.

    Moving away from the battles shaping opening and wicketkeeping, the other slot in question is the No.6. It’s extremely difficult to say who should be picked, because no one has put their hand up as yet. Runs have been hard to come by and bowling opportunities limited.

    Hilton Cartwright and Glenn Maxwell were the two previously thought to be in the driver’s seat for the spot, but failures for both players yesterday adds more questions than answers.

    Maxwell made just four for Victoria batting at first drop, while as already mentioned, Cartwright scored 35 doing the same thing for the Warriors.

    While the Victorian is the incumbent for the position after doing a strong job in Bangladesh and India, it’s hard to justify him being picked at the moment. Cartwright has bowling to offer, which is going to do his chances no harm at the selection table, but neither are in great form.

    Mitchell Marsh, who most will roll their eyes at scored a solid 95 from just 110 balls yesterday, but it’s hard to see the selectors picking him for batting alone given a tediously low Test average of just 21.74.

    For that reason, Cartwright is still probably in the box seat to be wearing the baggy green on November 23.

    Hilton Cartwright of Australia bowls

    (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)

    As for the rest of the squad, there wasn’t a lot to write home about in difficult conditions across the board. David Warner had his third consecutive failure, making just 26 against Queensland, while captain Steve Smith scored 44.

    Usman Khawaja had the performance of the day, finishing 78 not out in the Bulls effort of 183.

    Peter Handscomb’s form has to be concerning after he went for a duck yesterday, while the bowling attack were all being rested, with the exception of Nathan Lyon, who picked up three wickets.

    With all that being said and the XI set to be picked in just over 24 hours, let’s have a look at the possible squad which will be picked, noting there is one more day of Shield action for this to change around.

    Possible XI for first Test
    1. David Warner (vc)
    2. Matt Renshaw
    3. Usman Khawaja
    4. Steve Smith (c)
    5. Peter Handscomb
    6. Hilton Cartwright
    7. Cameron Bancroft (wk)
    8. Mitchell Starc
    9. Patrick Cummins
    10. Josh Hazlewood
    11. Nathan Lyon

    12. Jackson Bird

    The second day of Shield action in Round 3 continues from 10:30am (AEDT).

    Scott Pryde
    Scott Pryde

    One of the mainstays of The Roar, Scott Pryde has written over 1,100 articles covering everything from rugby league to basketball, from tennis to cricket. You can follow him on Twitter @sk_pryde.

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