James Faulkner is a phenomenal cricketer. Australia could give their side an x-factor by finding a place for him in the Test arena.
My main concern with adding 26-year-old Faulkner to the Australian Test setup is just where to include him in the lineup, and the implications the move would have on the rest of the XI.
I’m sure I was not alone in being buoyed by the unbelievable grit shown by Faulkner in producing a match-saving, unbeaten century this week against New South Wales in the Sheffield Shield.
His patient knock, comprising 222 deliveries rounded out a complete performance by Faulkner. He scored 106 runs and claimed three wickets in the match. batting at six, he displayed a clear temperament, one that many mightn’t have expected such a proficient short-form ball-striker would possess.
Known as a front-line bowler, it has been Faulkner’s blade doing the talking after the first three rounds of the Sheffield Shield – having scored 228 runs at an average of 57.
Additionally, the Tasmanian has claimed six wickets. Faulkner’s sole Test appearance came more than three years ago in the fifth Test at The Oval in 2013. On debut, he didn’t look out of place, scoring 45 runs and taking six wickets for the match in a more than serviceable performance.
Australia persisted with Mitchell Marsh for 18 Test matches despite a Test batting average stooping into the low 20’s. Faulkner’s current form makes a case for him a position inside the Aussie top six, however should he be selected I don’t see this eventuating.
The question remains though, where does Faulkner fit into the equation?
The most probable solution would be for him to lead a formidable lower order – batting at number eight. While also being used as one of three or four quick bowlers. He’s not going to edge out Mitchell Starc or Josh Hazlewood, so the question is whether or not Faulkner could cut it as a front-line Test paceman, and whether or not a fast-bowling group of Starc, Hazlewood and Faulkner would be both flexible and sufficient.
Regardless, I think it is a long-term move Australia need to make. Adding the flair and competitiveness of the Tasmanian represents a good move for the team. Other sides have shown the value of possessing a pace bowler who averages above 30 with the bat. This adds crucial batting depth, creating a lineup that doesn’t just bottom out at the wicket-keeper. England’s Chris Woakes and South Africa’s Vernon Philander are prime examples of useful batsmen at number eight, who make their respective sides significantly more dynamic.