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Picking an Australian squad to tour South Africa

Did George Bailey deserve to be cut from the Australian Test squad? AFP PHOTO / Saeed KHAN
Roar Pro
6th January, 2014
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Despite having gone unchanged through five consecutive Ashes Tests, Australia will obviously need to take more than 11 guys on the trip to South Africa next month.

The first 11, you would assume, should pick themselves. After all, they’ve just wrapped up the Ashes 5-blot, so why shouldn’t they also be the first 11 given a crack at the South Africans.

Yes, even George Bailey. Despite his initial struggles in the Test arena, and lack of overall runs, it would seem a little unfair to discard him after this series alone.

So with 11 tourists sorted, who else do the selectors pick to make sure they’ve got all bases covered once they get to South Africa?

Based on the recent selections, the next two names probably pick themselves – James Faulkner as the back-up all-rounder and Alex Doolan as a back-up batsman.

If they go searching for an additional spin option they should be looking in Stephen O’Keefe’s direction, he’s got 24 wickets at 22.25 for the first half of the Shield season, and many would argue he’s already well-overdue for a call-up.

What about the recent experiments of Ashton Agar and Fawad Ahmed? While they’ve picked up 14 wickets each at the halfway point of the Shield season, their average and economy is nowhere near as good as O’Keefe’s.

Also working against them will be their lack of competitive cricket over the next month in the Big Bash League.

Agar is not a regular in the Perth Scorcher’s line-up due to the presence of fellow spinners Brad Hogg and Michael Beer, while Fawad is stuck behind Muttiah Muralidaran and Aaron O’Brien in the Renegades’ line-up and might end up not getting a game at all.

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There is also a chance they don’t worry about a backup spinner if they would prefer to fit an additional fast bowling option into the squad.

They will take a couple of reserve quicks, I’m just not sure which ones.

Doug Bollinger and Nathan Coulter-Nile were both been on stand-by through the Ashes, and James Pattinson is just back from injury.

Or maybe we will see a surprise call-up for someone like South Australia’s Chadd Sayers?

I’d be hesitant about throwing Pattinson straight back into the squad, even if he has a great one day series, simply because of his past injury worries.

I’d much rather see him play out the back half of the Shield season and prove he can remain fully fit while playing a decent amount of long-form cricket and getting a pile of overs under his belt.

The potentially controversial selections will be the reserve batsmen, primarily because all the in-form guys in Shield cricket this season aren’t exactly at the front of selector’s minds.

Marcus North has said he’d love another shot at Test cricket, having not played in the baggy green for three years.

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Considering he happens to be the leading Shield run scorer, averaging 98.83 with three tons and two 50s, you’d say he’s putting a fair case forward.

Cameron White hasn’t been in Aussie colours since October 2012, but at the moment he is in cracking form in every version of the game, seeming to pass 50 every other time he comes to the wicket.

North and White aren’t getting any younger but at just 34 and 30 respectively, they’ve still got several good years left in them.

If age is truly no longer an issue for selectors, remembering that Rogers earned his recall aged 36, then you’d expect they – along with anyone else in-form – should at least be considered.

Then there is Phil Hughes. He is again making a swag of domestic runs, but when cover was needed for Sydney he was overlooked in favour of Doolan, and then he was left out of the ODI side.

At this point, seeing Hughes in the squad for South Africa seems like it would be a surprise.

All up they will probably take a squad of 16 or 17, but of the extra half-dozen only two seem like relatively certain chances, the rest are up for grabs.

Who knows, maybe we won’t need all of them, could the triumphant Ashes XI play another three Tests unchanged?

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Now that really would be something.

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