Scotland brought the field up when scores were tied with nine balls remaining, but it only delayed the inevitable.
It seems only yesterday a few cricket ‘Johhny come latelys’ were jumping all over the debutant Matt Renshaw as he made his debut at the Adelaide Oval pink ball Test for his slow batting.
I remember just before the Test thinking that I was only concerned at how many balls he faced. I was thinking of the traditional openers role of seeing off the new ball and shielding the middle order from the fresh quicks.
While commentators like Ian Chappell made correct comments regarding the need to turn the strike over, others criticised him. I remember thinking: “give the kid a break, he’s 20 years old in his first ever Test.”
While he managed 10 off 59 deliveries in the first innings, with only a target of 127 to chase in the second dig he was on a hiding to nothing.
Dave Warner, his partner, hit near a-run-a-ball 47, yet Renshaw backed his own game and showed the selectors the only thing he could and that was to bat. Managing 37 not out after facing 137 deliveries, it was a feat that few Australian batsmen had achieved throughout the South African series. He salvaged the only thing he could in that second dig.
Renshaw responded to the criticism in his next outing in the first Test in Brisbane. In the first innings he kept pace with Warner before Warner fell for 32. Renshaw went on to make 71 in the first and 6 in the second, leaving him averaging 40 after his first two Tests. Then came Boxing Day and an uncharacteristic slog sweep on 10 saw him in the sheds early while Warner, Khawaja, Steve Smith, Peter Handscomb and even Mitchell Starc all cashed in on a good deck that failed to deteriorate due to rain.
Only a short turnaround between the Boxing Day and New Years was enough to see squad changes for an anticipated spinning pitch. With the series wrapped up and one eye on the India tour, there was already talk of where Shaun Marsh would fit back in the order.
Would Shaun Marsh come in for the expense of Renshaw in a horses-for-courses policy with Marsh’s most recent red ball form glowing?
I think day one of the 2017 New Years Test should have put that to bed. For a man of only 20 to be at the other end watching David Warner’s record-breaking century before lunch on the first day of a Test match to maintain the temperament to go back and stick to his own game, even as lunch approached, said mountains about how good this guy could be.
Even at 167 not out at stumps there was still talk of a possible switch for Shaun Marsh in India, with Michael Clarke defending Renshaw on Nine. Even Chris Rogers was suggesting that the selectors may not play Renshaw in the opening role for all or any of the India Tests.
If that turns out to be the case, I think it’s a massive mistake.
No one expects Australia to win the series in India. I doubt few honest followers of Test cricket would even wager that Australia will even win a game. This current Indian side is as strong as I’ve ever seen and may be the most difficult to beat at home of all time.
I’d suggest that beating this side in India would be every bit as hard as touring sides visiting Australia in the Waugh-Ponting prime era. That’s why I think it would be a massive mistake to not play Renshaw as one of the opening batsmen in every Test.
Matt Renshaw is only 20 years old and has the potential to be in this side for a very long time. We know already that he has the shots, ability and most of all, the perfect temperament to be a long term opener for Australia.
He may or may not score many runs on the Indian tour of 2017, but picking and sticking with him in this Indian series could play a major role in how many runs he scores in the following three Indian series to come over the next decade or so.
How many class batsmen have we seen struggle in the early part of a series as they take a while to adapt to unfamiliar conditions? Gone are the days of old when touring teams would have a mountain of lead-up games against first class sides prior to the Tests starting.
Renshaw and Handscomb need as much time playing in these conditions as possible. If not for this series, but every series in the sub-continent for the foreseeable future.
Shaun Marsh has to tour, there is no doubt about that. Shoehorn him in there somewhere if you have to or select him as cover. While the same line of thinking had me disappointed that Khawaja was dropped in Sri-Lanka last year, he may make way for Marsh after a couple of Tests.
Assuming that Nathan Lyon and Steve O’Keefe will accompany Mitch Starc and Josh Hazlewood, Hilton Cartwright and to a lesser extent Glenn Maxwell make sensible fifth bowling options batting at 6.
With un-Indian like pitches faced by England in the recent series, Smith will need as many options at his disposal as possible on tour.
There are two things that should be set in stone though, Renshaw should open the batting in every Test (barring injury) and Matthew Wade should be keeping to Mitchell Swepson and Adam Zampa in the T20s.