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Who should open with David Warner in South Africa?

Steve Squires Roar Rookie

66 Have your say

    With the Ashes won and the whitewash out of play, Australia’s Test selectors can now look ahead to the South Africa Test tour, with the 1st Test starting on 1 March.

    The upcoming four-Test series is Australia’s first series of more than three Tests against South Africa since their reinstatement to world cricket in 1991; a long time coming after several entertaining and hard-fought series over the past 25 years.

    This is the first of three articles, each of which will address selection questions.

    3. Who should open the batting with David Warner?
    4. Who should bat at 6, aka does the XI require an allrounder?
    5. Who is Australia’s fourth best, fully fit, pace bowler?

    The Ashes has helped settle two important questions at least for the next series or two.

    1. Who should be the wicketkeeper?
    Tim Paine has done enough during The Ashes to be retained for South Africa.

    2. Is Shaun Marsh too old or not good enough to be in the Test team?
    No, not on current form, which is career-best. He should be selected.

    Each of the unresolved questions appear to have three or four candidates ahead of the rest, and it’s quite likely that two of each of these candidates can be included in the tour party.

    The squad is unlikely to include a second spinner, given Lyon’s form, and that one wasn’t taken on the 2013-14 tour.

    The selectors will likely get to watch only one more Shield round (8-11 February) before naming a 16-man squad.

    Form is hard to assess on a one Shield game sample size. I’m sure the selectors will look at January’s ODI performances (for Australia reps such as Mitch Marsh), and, dangerously, BBL games to judge a player’s form.

    Instead of the BBL and ODIs, the selectors would be better off using career statistics, and considering anticipated conditions, along with FC and Test statistics from the first half of the summer.

    The contenders
    Joe Burns has a Test average of 38 and averaged 57 across ten Sheffield Shield innings this summer. He has batted himself back into contention as a Test opener and is versatile, having batted in the middle order for state and country.

    He is more attacking than Cameron Bancroft and Matt Renshaw, which includes turning the strike over more, scoring 17 per cent more runs per 100 balls from 1s, 2s, and 3s, than Bancroft and Renshaw.

    While Bancroft had the superior early Shield form and deservedly won selection for The Ashes, it’s fair to say he hasn’t quite lived up to hopes, averaging 29.8 through 4 matches.

    Excluding his blameless run-out in Adelaide, his average rises to an unconvincing 33.8, however he has made several promising starts and looked composed throughout.

    Technique-wise, he tends to fall over a bit, trapping him LBW twice. This may be even more of an issue in less bouncy or swinging conditions, like those in England, but at least Bancroft is playing regular county cricket and is young enough to improve this.

    Whether he is able to improve between now and South Africa is more doubtful.

    To be fair on Bancroft, England’s opening bowlers are a strong duo, with James Anderson ranked the ICCs No. 1 Test bowler, and Stuart Broad still a top 15 bowler, despite mediocre 2017 form. With these quality opening bowers, England have a stronger attack than, say, the Pakistan bowlers which Renshaw plundered for 71 and 184 last summer.

    England’s third, fourth, and fifth bowlers have been a weak point aside from Craig Overton’s pre-injury performance and Chris Woakes under lights in Adelaide.

    Joe Burns’ highest Test score is 170, made in Christchurch, against the Kiwis’ Neil Wagner (now ranked 7th by ICC), Trent Boult (12th) and Tim Southee (16th). In context, it’s a hugely impressive performance against a quality pace attack in foreign conditions.

    His maiden Test century, in his first match as an opener, was a second innings knock against New Zealand at the ‘Gabba. These were friendly home conditions but amply demonstrated the ability to bat with David Warner, sharing in 161-run and 237-run opening stands in that match.

    Burns provides a right-left combination with David Warner, as does Bancroft.

    Renshaw must surely have slipped to third in the pecking order to partner Warner. He will hopefully re-discover form and confidence in the second half of the Shield season.

    Youngsters like Jake Weatherald (averaging 45.7 this season) and Marcus Harris (45.9) have performed well this summer but are not Test-ready.

    Joe Burns Cameron Bancroft Matt Renshaw Ed Cowan
    Innings as Test opener 19 7 18 29
    Runs as Test opener 727 179 623 963
    Average as Test opener 38.26 29.83 36.64 33.2
    Strike rate as Test opener 56.9 40.5 43.8 41.2
    Innings per 50+ as Test opener 3.8 7 4.5 4.14
    Runs from 4s and 6s/100 balls 32.2 19.5 22.6 20.2
    Runs from 1s, 2s, 3s / 100 balls 24.6 21 21.2 21
    FC average 2017/18 (inc. Test) 57.11 62.1 16.66 46.33
    Career FC average 40.05 39.26 35 42.26
    FC inns per 50+ 3.3 4.4 5 3.6

    Left field options
    The other opener who deserves consideration is Ed Cowan. It’s extremely unlikely that the selectors will pick him, but given Tim Paine was picked for the Ashes, nothing can be ruled out. Cowan has Test match experience and averages a respectable 42 in First Class cricket, higher than all other Shield openers.

    His age (35) counts against him, but has proved no barrier to recalling Shaun Marsh (34) for the Ashes, nor Chris Rogers (played his second Test at 35) and Adam Voges (debuted at 35) who all performed well in recent years.

    If Cowan is granted the opportunity to open and scores a century for NSW in their next Shield match, while others struggle, then it becomes remotely feasible.

    I haven’t considered promoting Usman Khawaja or Shaun Marsh to open. Nor do I think dropping Khawaja is a sensible option.

    Khawaja must be locked in at three for the South Africa series despite a disappointing Ashes because he has proven over several years to be our third best batsmen in Test cricket (by average and total runs) and generally deals with pace bowling very effectively – this is not a tour to the subcontinent.

    Two Ashes fifties from six innings is not a terrible return, but you feel he needs to make a good score at the SCG for his own confidence, otherwise, there’s one more Shield game to lock himself in.

    Sadly, there is a dearth of proven long-form batsmen in Australian cricket and Khawaja has shown in the last three years to be a class above Shield cricket, though faltering against good spinners.

    Given South Africa has four pace bowlers in the top 15 of the ICC rankings and a spinner in the top 20, there will be no sterner examination of a player’s technique.

    The opening partnership will be crucial to Australia’s chances in this series.

    As such, I would select Joe Burns and Cameron Bancroft in the touring squad and unless Bancroft makes a significant score beforehand, even in a tour game, then Burns should be in the first Test XI in South Africa, despite his dual failures in Hobart during 2016.

    Have Your Say



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    The Crowd Says (66)

    • January 4th 2018 @ 8:39am
      Chinners said | January 4th 2018 @ 8:39am | ! Report

      Burns for me

    • January 4th 2018 @ 8:54am
      Don Freo said | January 4th 2018 @ 8:54am | ! Report

      33 average at the start of a career is quite convincing. Out of Renshaw, Bancroft and Burns, Burns is the most vulnerable technically. He is not a natural opener. There is no need for a change.

      It is absolutely certain that Oz will take a second spinner to SA. It will be Agar.

      • Roar Rookie

        January 4th 2018 @ 9:16am
        Matthew Pearce said | January 4th 2018 @ 9:16am | ! Report

        Can’t agree there. Burns is indeed not a natural opener, but he’s made his career there and has the best career record out of the three. He also had a century and three 50s after his first four tests.

        There’s absolutely need for change if players aren’t good enough, which Bancroft has one more test to disprove. Which is a fairer go than Burns ever received.

        • January 4th 2018 @ 9:24am
          Don Freo said | January 4th 2018 @ 9:24am | ! Report

          Bancroft has given us some consistent opening partnerships. If he fails, of course he should be dropped…but he is not failing.

          • Roar Rookie

            January 4th 2018 @ 9:51am
            Matthew Pearce said | January 4th 2018 @ 9:51am | ! Report

            There’s been good partnerships but Bancroft hasn’t contributed all that much to most of them. One score above 30 from seven innings isn’t good enough, he hasn’t convinced me he’s good enough yet.

            Irrelevant and predictable side note, but if Burns was given anything resembling fair treatment after Hobart, he probably would have played every Test since. I still think he’s the better option by a considerable margin.

            • January 4th 2018 @ 3:27pm
              John Erichsen said | January 4th 2018 @ 3:27pm | ! Report

              Burns opening on home soil led to the following partnerships.
              V New Zealand
              161 & 237 in Brisbane
              101 & 8 in Perth
              6 (Warner out) & 34 in Adelaide

              V West Indies
              75 in Bellerieve
              29 (Warner out, Burns made 128) & 7
              100 in Sydney

              V Sth Africa
              2(Warner out) & 0 in Bellerieve

              Burns was also involved in partnerships 25 & 49 in Christchurch where Warner fell early twice. Burns scored 170 and 65 in that test match, although he did make a 4th ball duck in his only innings of the first test in that series.

              Burns partnership figures compare very favourably with Bancroft’s, so like you, I don’t believe that Don’s argument carries any weight.

              • Roar Rookie

                January 4th 2018 @ 4:26pm
                Matthew Pearce said | January 4th 2018 @ 4:26pm | ! Report

                Having the strong contributions to the partnerships is the biggest factor in what made Burns a genuine success at opener. You could back him to make the big scores if Warner failed, because he did.

                Renshaw generally struggled to do that, which is probably my biggest criticism of him. He didn’t stamp himself on the game the same way Warner and Burns could, and it showed with how his figures went down.

                Bancroft just hasn’t done enough to show that he’s capable of that. You can’t get away with just making starts if you don’t have the big score/s to prove that you can go on. Even a few fifties would have been a good guarantee, but one score above 30 isn’t. If he can’t make that breakthrough this test, he’s had the whole series, Burns has carried his Shield form over to the BBL, the change has to be made for mine.

      • January 4th 2018 @ 3:24pm
        Steve Squires said | January 4th 2018 @ 3:24pm | ! Report

        Why are you so sure we would we take Agar to South Africa? Do you personally think we need him or just that the selectors will pick him?
        As I wrote, we didn’t take a 2nd spinner in 2014 and Lyon’s spot is much more secure now. No prospect of playing two spinners in the XI and Lyon isn’t injury prone. If Lyon does get injured we can fly over a replacement from someone actually playing Shield cricket (Agar is first in line clearly) rather than sitting on the bench and bowling in the nets. Conditons won’t require much acclimatisation, so bowling in Shield matches will be more valuable to Agar than touring.

        • January 4th 2018 @ 6:36pm
          Don Freo said | January 4th 2018 @ 6:36pm | ! Report

          He’s a star. The selectors have shown their hand. They want him in the system.

          He makes every post a winner every chance he gets. That’s the type we want.

        • January 6th 2018 @ 12:22pm
          Geoff from Bruce Stadium said | January 6th 2018 @ 12:22pm | ! Report

          You’re right Steve – it’s pointless taking Agar to Sth Africa if he won’t play test cricket. We are not talking sub-continent here. Better to take some depth in the fast bowling department.

      • January 4th 2018 @ 3:26pm
        Steve Squires said | January 4th 2018 @ 3:26pm | ! Report

        If 33 is convincing – and I do acknowledge its not bad, but two pitches have been roads remember – then how do you describe Renshaw’s average of 36 and Burns’ 38?

        • January 4th 2018 @ 6:35pm
          Don Freo said | January 4th 2018 @ 6:35pm | ! Report

          Renshaw’s is fine but not indicative because of the run of low scores. He’s better than that. Burns is playing at the peak of his ability…not much more upside.

      • January 4th 2018 @ 4:14pm
        John Erichsen said | January 4th 2018 @ 4:14pm | ! Report

        Burns did that better than Bancroft has. Bancroft’s average is actually 29.83, Don, not 33. His average was 33 prior to the third test, if that’s what you meant. Or were you predicting that Cameron would score 50 this next innings and lift his average to 33. I hope you aren’t foreseeing him batting through the innings to score 16*.

        • January 4th 2018 @ 6:41pm
          Don Freo said | January 4th 2018 @ 6:41pm | ! Report

          Stats in short career mean nothing. Bancroft has better Shield stats this season.

          The 33 refers to the article’s acknowledgement of the run out. People using stats as an argument choose to overlook that. It’s why stats are more records of history rather than indicators of form.

          • January 5th 2018 @ 5:06pm
            John Erichsen said | January 5th 2018 @ 5:06pm | ! Report

            It was very disappointing to see Bancroft out for a duck today. It certainly hurts his claims for retention.

            Batting in partnership with Warner, Burns was first out 58% of the time. Bancroft 83%.
            Burns was dismissed under 10 as opener in 58% of his test innings. Bancroft 42%.
            I don’t undervalue surviving and taking shine off the ball as an opener. Bancroft, like Renshaw before him, has this in his game. Sadly, Bancroft’s form has slipped since the start of the series. Even accounting for the run out, an average of 24 at home on pretty flat pitches is poor.

            It will be interesting to see how much faith the selectors have in him, if he fails again in the 2nd innings. Recent selector behaviour doesn’t look good for Cameron.

            Khawaja, however, will have cemented his trip to South Africa, with his 76*(at present).

    • Roar Guru

      January 4th 2018 @ 11:18am
      Scott Pryde said | January 4th 2018 @ 11:18am | ! Report

      I think you have to retain Bancroft for the SA tour – at least the start of it – four Tests is a lot of cricket. But Bancroft has shown enough to be given a prolonged opportunity with Burns in the squad as well.

    • Roar Guru

      January 4th 2018 @ 12:06pm
      DingoGray said | January 4th 2018 @ 12:06pm | ! Report

      How many Test Series is South Africa?

      For me if it’s 4 Test Series, Bancroft gets the 1st two unless he gets skittled twice in the 1st Test.

      Burns has to go. He covers both Bancroft and Khawaja and even Shaun Marsh if his body plays up.

      • Roar Rookie

        January 4th 2018 @ 12:29pm
        Matthew Pearce said | January 4th 2018 @ 12:29pm | ! Report

        Yeah, pretty sure it’s a four test series.

        If he does well in this test it should buy him another one, but if he doesn’t impress here he should be in the firing line.

        Not convinced he’d deserve the first two. He’d need a standout today to guarantee himself that much imo.

        • January 4th 2018 @ 3:37pm
          Steve Squires said | January 4th 2018 @ 3:37pm | ! Report

          I’d suggest anything over 80 runs (across 2 digs) at the SCG would guarantee Bancroft the first 2 Tests in SA. Otherwise he will need a century in the Shield or tour game. I’m hoping he does it but Burns is the best replacement if he doesn’t.

          Then if Bancroft doesn’t make a 50 in 4 innings over there then we will need to change it up, especially if we are down in the series (which we would be if the opening partnership isn’t working).

        • January 4th 2018 @ 3:43pm
          John Erichsen said | January 4th 2018 @ 3:43pm | ! Report

          If Maxwell’s Indian century was only worth another three tests, in the subcontinent, I don’t see how Bancroft’s score of 82*, with no other score over 30, on home pitches with little assistance for the bowlers. deserves that many. Burns made 170 and 65 away against New Zealand. Three test later he was dumped and two of those tests were in Sri Lanka on foreign crumbling pitches. There might be a couple of very nervous batmen after this test match, if their less than adequate series continues.

    • January 4th 2018 @ 12:23pm
      paul said | January 4th 2018 @ 12:23pm | ! Report

      The current side picks itself for South Africa and then we have to try and read the selectors minds which has proven a “Mission Impossible” in the past.

      Joe Burns is a must, simply because he can play in a number of positions. The rest of squad – no idea.

    • January 4th 2018 @ 12:45pm
      Bearfax said | January 4th 2018 @ 12:45pm | ! Report

      Let Bancroft settle in. He and Renshaw….and Weatherald…are the future openers for Australia. Let them develop. Don’t go backwards.

      • January 4th 2018 @ 1:32pm
        Don Freo said | January 4th 2018 @ 1:32pm | ! Report

        I’d go Harris ahead of Weatherald.

        • January 4th 2018 @ 4:00pm
          Bearfax said | January 4th 2018 @ 4:00pm | ! Report

          Harris showed promise for a while there Don but after several seasons and approaching 26 years, he’s still only averaging less than 33. Like Dean, he hasn’t moved to the next level. Now Weatherald is fairly new to the first class scene and may still suffer the 2nd-3rd year drop off of form as seems to happen to so many new players to the Shield scene, so I’m not pushing him seriously at this stage. But he is averaging 37 and that’s encouraging. But at this stage I would be sticking with Bancroft or Renshaw to open, rather than bringing in an older player. Let them develop. I’ll reserve my opinion regarding Weatherald for another season, but at this stage he’s showing more than Dean or Harris.

          • January 4th 2018 @ 4:08pm
            Don Freo said | January 4th 2018 @ 4:08pm | ! Report

            Last year and this year particularly he has been excellent. Averages don’t matter. Performance does.

            A failure might affect an average but a short innings does not negate the quality of another.

            • January 4th 2018 @ 4:57pm
              Bearfax said | January 4th 2018 @ 4:57pm | ! Report

              He’s done reasonably well this year with an average of 40.8. Weatherald has averaged 45.7 this year. So on form and averages, he’s ahead. Your West Australian bias is showing again mate. Even Bosisto is scoring better as an opener at present this season averaging 48.

              • January 5th 2018 @ 2:40pm
                Don Freo said | January 5th 2018 @ 2:40pm | ! Report

                And I’m still advocating the Victorian over WA’s Bosisto. Where’s the WA bias?

        • January 4th 2018 @ 4:06pm
          jamesb said | January 4th 2018 @ 4:06pm | ! Report

          Harris reminds me of Mark Cosgrove, looks good when he plays shots, but probably doesn’t have the mental capacity to become a test player.

          • January 4th 2018 @ 4:09pm
            Don Freo said | January 4th 2018 @ 4:09pm | ! Report

            Cossy played some great innings. He was just fat.

      • January 4th 2018 @ 3:52pm
        John Erichsen said | January 4th 2018 @ 3:52pm | ! Report

        In current form, Bancroft and Renshaw would both be out and Smith would walk in at 2/28 off 25 overs, eight minutes before the lunch break…
        Being dropped back to shield cricket isn’t necessarily a backwards step, if it helps you develop your game and rebuild lost confidence. The South African attack ripping through an out-of-touch young opener, could end his test career. Does it get any more backwards than that?
        There’s a fine line between giving a young player time to feel that they belong at test level. and letting them have too much time and opposition show that they don’t belong. Hopefully, Bancroft finds his confidence in Sydney and heads to South Africa with a very positive mindset. Renshaw will need a bucket load of shield runs to prove himself worthy of a recall, given where is at currently in the pecking order.

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