One doesn’t make two: Australia’s Ashes conundrum

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    When the Australian national selection panel discuss the team for the first Ashes Test this afternoon in Brisbane, they have one large problem to overcome.

    One replacement can’t fill two positions.

    Across the first three rounds of the Sheffield Shield, only Cameron Bancroft has put his hand up to challenge for the wicketkeeper or opening position.

    The Western Australian is trying for both and – given his unbeaten double century yesterday for the Warriors, finishing on 228 not out – doing a damn good job of it.

    Double ton gives Cam Bancroft one foot in the door for Ashes selection

    Unfortunately, that leaves Matt Renshaw and Matthew Wade in need of being replaced.

    It’s clear Bancroft should play in the first Test. I was happy to call him the wicketkeeper in yesterday’s article, but after another abject failure from Renshaw, I’m not so sure.

    Plenty want to see the Queenslander retained, and he may well survive purely because no one has scored runs, but the stats are pretty damning.

    In his six Shield innings this season, Renshaw has averaged a tedious 11.66, scoring just 70 runs. He has looked all at sea, unable to handle a swinging new ball.

    On a likely green Gabba deck, the notion that James Anderson and Stuart Broad aren’t going to be hooping the ball around corners is rather silly – the experienced English duo will give the Australian batsmen hell.

    The only other opener across the country who has made runs is Shaun Marsh, who has gone past 50 twice in the first three rounds of the Shield, despite only getting 17 yesterday.

    Yet this would be a massive step in the wrong direction – by now you’d think the selectors were smart enough to realise they need to blood young talent, rather than go back to Marsh again.

    Australian batsman Shaun Marsh reacts after scoring a century

    AAP Image/Dave Hunt

    The problem is, while Bancroft is doing it at Shield level, the selectors would be hesitant to throw him into the cauldron of Test cricket as both keeper and opening batsman

    It may be better to put up with the lack of production from Wade behind the stumps than stick with Renshaw, particularly given there are precious few other options as keeper.

    Peter Nevill again failed with the blade for the Blues, making just 17 against Queensland.

    Hoewver, South Australian Alex Carey has made a positive start to his innings – sitting on 26 not out at stumps – and would do his chances no harm with a big score.

    Essentially, Bancroft will be in the side for the first Test, it’s merely a question of whether Wade or Renshaw will miss out, based on team needs.

    Elsewhere, little was learnt in the battle for No.6. Neither Glenn Maxwell nor Hilton Cartwright – presumed to be the two front-runners – made any impact, with Cartwright bowling two overs for 20 runs against South Australia.

    Another half-century continues to show Usman Khawaja’s form and at this stage he looks to be the most in-form of any Australian batsman.

    Steve Smith, David Warner and Peter Handscomb looking scratchy, with none reaching 50 in their most recently completed innings. It’s been a lean start to the summer, with Smith reaching the half century twice and Warner once.

    In a communication breakdown, the fast bowlers were sat out of the final round of the Shield, before being told they had to hold back in the nets. Bowling at each other rather than a local net batsman must be a sure way to wasting a training session, and it appears Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Patrick Cummins did exactly that yesterday.

    Nathan Lyon, meanwhile, picked up his third wicket of the match, getting rid of the dangerous Khawaja.

    While the bowlers are locked in, the batters sure aren’t. Two spots have turned into three over the course of the summer, and chances for those vying to be in the Ashes squad are running out fast.

    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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