Tremain and Burns should tour South Africa

Ronan O'Connell Columnist

By Ronan O'Connell, Ronan O'Connell is a Roar Expert

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    Joe Burns should replace Cameron Bancroft as Australian Test opener, with Chris Tremain picked as a back-up quick ahead of Chadd Sayers for next month’s Test tour of South Africa.

    Bancroft was given five Tests on fantastic batting tracks against a limp, one-dimensional England attack and still could only muster 179 runs at an average of 25.

    Given the way England’s quicks exposed his weakness against fuller deliveries on and around off stump, it’s hard to imagine Bancroft could improve on those numbers against a vastly-better Proteas attack on juicier pitches.

    At just 25 years old, Bancroft has plenty of time to refine his technique and return to Tests in the future as a more-rounded batsman. Burns is the obvious choice to replace him.

    The 28-year-old was shown very little patience by the selectors last year, dumped twice in a matter of months, despite averaging 38 across his first 13 Tests.

    First he was axed in Sri Lanka after making 34 runs from four knocks across the first two Tests of that series. Then he was recalled to replace the injured Shaun Marsh against South Africa in Hobart, only to be dropped for Matt Renshaw the following Test.

    Burns took this poor treatment in his stride, returned to Queensland and has since hit 1068 runs at 46 in the Shield. It’s easy to forget it’s only three Tests ago for Burns since he was man-of-the-match in a rousing Test victory in New Zealand.

    He made 170 and 65 in that Test in Christchurch against a full-strength Kiwi attack of Trent Boult, Neil Wagner, Tim Southee and Matt Henry.

    Up to that point, Burns had made a dominant start to his Test career, piling up 838 runs at a tick under 50 from ten Tests, including three tons. His resilience in the face of being harshly dumped twice was impressive and is another reason he should be given first crack at taming the Proteas pace attack.

    Australia's Joe Burns, left, and David Warner, right

    (AP Photo/Tertius Pickard)

    The two reserve batsmen positions should go to a pair who know Burns’ pain in Glenn Maxwell and Peter Handscomb. They, too, have been on the receiving end of some tough calls by the Test selectors in recent times.

    The most controversial choice in my 15-man squad is Tremain over Sayers.

    The South Australian swing merchant has been the most consistently effective bowler in the Sheffield Shield for the past five years. Not only has he excelled in the Shield, with 218 career wickets at 23, but he’s also flourished when picked for Australia A, taking 28 wickets at 25.

    I found it hard to choose between Sayers and Bird. But that was the choice that needed to be made, as the Australian squad would lack variety if both of those men were selected. The generous success of the Australian Test attack across different conditions in the past year was the result of how well balanced it was.

    Mitchell Starc offers a left arm angle and swings the ball, Josh Hazlewood targets the top of off stump ceaselessly, Pat Cummins intimidates with vicious short balls, and Nathan Lyon ties it all together with his accurate spin.

    Bird and Sayers are suited to performing the Hazlewood role, while the much quicker and more aggressive Tremain could better fill in for Cummins or Starc.

    The 26-year-old Victorian is 193cm tall, which helps him get sharp bounce, and was clocked at up to 148kmh during his debut ODI series in SA in 2016.

    With James Pattinson and Nathan Coulter-Nile battling injuries, Tremain is the most dynamic first-class quick outside of the Test XI. Tremain isn’t quite as swift as Starc or Cummins, but he is the best part of 10kmh faster than Bird or Sayers.

    And it’s not just pace and bounce which Tremain has going for him. He’s also a natural swing bowler, and boasts good precision, giving up just 3.07 runs per over in his first-class career.

    In mid-2016 Tremain took seven wickets at 23 for Australia A in two red-ball matches a strong South Africa A line-up including Dean Elgar, Temba Bavuma and Vernon Philander.

    Most importantly, Tremain’s been as effective as Sayers over the past three Sheffield Shield seasons, taking 100 wickets at 20, compared to Sayers’ return of 115 wickets at 22.

    Australia, of course, will hope that none of these back-up bowlers are needed – their hopes of beating the Proteas will rely heavily on their first-choice attack staying fit.

    My 15-man Australia Test squad for South Africa
    1. David Warner (vc)
    2. Joe Burns
    3. Usman Khawaja
    4. Steve Smith (c)
    5. Shaun Marsh
    6. Mitch Marsh
    7. Tim Paine (wk)
    8. Pat Cummins
    9. Mitchell Starc
    10. Nathan Lyon
    11. Josh Hazlewood

    12. Chris Tremain
    13. Jackson Bird
    14. Glenn Maxwell
    15. Peter Handscomb

    Ronan O
    Ronan O'Connell

    Ronan O'Connell has been a journalist for well over 13 years, including nine at daily newspapers in WA. He now traverses the world as a travel photojournalist, contributing words and photography to more than 30 magazines and newspapers including CNN, BBC, The Toronto Star, The Guardian, The South China Morning Post, The Irish Examiner and The Australian Financial Review. Check out his work and follow him on Twitter @ronanoco

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    The Crowd Says (80)

    • Roar Guru

      January 11th 2018 @ 7:57am
      Chris Kettlewell said | January 11th 2018 @ 7:57am | ! Report

      Can’t argue with much of that. I agree that you don’t want Bird and Sayers being the two backup quicks, The back up quicks could be Tremain and BIrd or Tremain and Sayers, but not Bird and Sayers.

      And I suppose having both backup batsman being middle order players isn’t an issue when losing an opener could easily be filled with either Usman opening and S.Marsh up to 3 or Marsh opening and then Handscomb or Maxwell fills the middle order spot.

      • January 11th 2018 @ 9:09am
        Rob JM said | January 11th 2018 @ 9:09am | ! Report

        I Think any type of pacemen can do well in SA. Sayers is in the mould of philander and we know how well he can play there.

        • January 11th 2018 @ 10:34am
          jameswm said | January 11th 2018 @ 10:34am | ! Report

          Yeah that’s what I’ve been thinking. On a Philander friendly wicket, Sayers would also do well.

          Philander is next to useless on flatter Aussie decks, and his skipper often doesn’t bother bowling him.

          • January 11th 2018 @ 11:48am
            Mitch said | January 11th 2018 @ 11:48am | ! Report

            Philander destroyed our batting lineup last time he was here, he is like the South African Hazelwood.

            • January 11th 2018 @ 1:17pm
              jameswm said | January 11th 2018 @ 1:17pm | ! Report

              On a helpful deck. Then when it goes flat and dry, he only bowls with the new ball.

      • Columnist

        January 11th 2018 @ 10:26am
        Ronan O'Connell said | January 11th 2018 @ 10:26am | ! Report

        Chris I do think there’s a decent chance the selectors could move Shaun Marsh up to open in place of Bancroft.

        He averages 42 in his five Tests as an opener, and made 63 opening against SA in Perth just over a year ago when he and Warner put on 158.

        • January 11th 2018 @ 2:47pm
          Linphoma said | January 11th 2018 @ 2:47pm | ! Report

          Chris, Ronan, I don’t think anyone should be thinking of fiddling with Shaun Marsh’s position in the order now that he’s found his mojo. It would be karma if he is moved and fails miserably. We’ll listen to howls of off with his head from the brethren after a few awkward innings.

          • January 12th 2018 @ 12:16am
            DaveJ said | January 12th 2018 @ 12:16am | ! Report

            True, and he does have a tendency to nick off a bit early on, which is more of a danger in SA.

            • January 12th 2018 @ 2:50pm
              matth said | January 12th 2018 @ 2:50pm | ! Report

              Agreed. If you are going to play with the order in that way, I’d be moving Khawaja up. He also has a very good record opening.

              Having said that Burns is my choice as well.

    • January 11th 2018 @ 8:42am
      blanco said | January 11th 2018 @ 8:42am | ! Report

      I agree we can’t have both Bird and Sayers. I don’t think Bird should be in the squad, so for me it should be Sayers and a pacer who offers something different. Tremain could be an option. I’m also thinking Stanlake but thats too big a gamble. So Treiman it may very well be.

      • Columnist

        January 11th 2018 @ 10:30am
        Ronan O'Connell said | January 11th 2018 @ 10:30am | ! Report

        Sayers and Bird is a real line-ball decision, either could be very handy on SA decks.

        The major disadvantage Sayers has is that, because of the way the Aussie season is scheduled, he hasn’t played any cricket for 6 weeks now and it’s still another 4 weeks until the Shield resumes, so he’d be going into that SA tour with barely any cricket the previous 3 months.

        • January 11th 2018 @ 10:35am
          jameswm said | January 11th 2018 @ 10:35am | ! Report

          any cricket we’ve seen. I would assume he is at least playing club cricket.

          • Columnist

            January 11th 2018 @ 10:41am
            Ronan O'Connell said | January 11th 2018 @ 10:41am | ! Report

            He probably is playing club cricket but there’s a massive, massive gap between Adelaide club cricket and bowling to de Villiers, Amla and Faf. It’s not great preparation.

            • Roar Pro

              January 11th 2018 @ 12:56pm
              mrrexdog said | January 11th 2018 @ 12:56pm | ! Report

              Sayers is playing grade cricket, Bird is playing big bash.

              Grade cricket didn’t seem to hurt O’Keefe in India last year

        • January 11th 2018 @ 10:23pm
          Jon said | January 11th 2018 @ 10:23pm | ! Report

          They picked Chris Lynn in the ODI squad with virtually no cricket…it’s apparently not a pre-req any more!
          Sayers over Bird for mine – takes wickets on flat decks (Adelaide for example), is a genuine swing bowler which offer the variety we do not have in the attack.

    • Roar Guru

      January 11th 2018 @ 8:54am
      Ryan H said | January 11th 2018 @ 8:54am | ! Report

      Spot on with Tremain I’m thinking. As I stated on another article earlier this week, I think having Tremain is essential for backup to either Starc or Cummins should one of them miss any matches. I thought in Melbourne the attack appeared unbalanced and lacking variation, and with guys like NCN and Behrendorff still on the sidelines, I think as a bowler with speed and bounce, Tremain is the next best option – his recent season or two at Shield level prove he is ready for test cricket, as you point out Ronan with 100 wickets @ 20 which is excellent.

      I would have Tremain and one of Bird/Sayers in the squad, but not both – they are very similar types of bowlers and neither unfortunately provide a like-for-like replacement to Starc or Cummins.

      • January 11th 2018 @ 11:59am
        Don Freo said | January 11th 2018 @ 11:59am | ! Report

        Bird and Sayers are quite different bowlers. Bird hits the deck from height while Sayers skids. Bird is faster than Sayers. Similarities? They both swing it and both do nothing when the ball loses shine.

        The structure of the domestic cricket season has cost Sayers an international career.

        • Roar Rookie

          January 11th 2018 @ 1:54pm
          El Loco said | January 11th 2018 @ 1:54pm | ! Report

          Yeah this whole “Player X (often Sayers) won’t have played in six weeks” line is getting tiresome. If CA structures the season the way it is it can’t hold it against its own players.

        • January 11th 2018 @ 10:26pm
          Jon said | January 11th 2018 @ 10:26pm | ! Report

          That’s incorrect. Bird floats it! He either bowls too full or too short and isn’t quick enough to or uses his height enough. Sayers swings it and bowls cutters – he takes wickets at Adelaide Oval don’t forget and took wickets for Aust A on good decks – but he can also reverse it. He is not just a new ball bowler, the only cross against him apparently is that he doesn’t exceed 140K.

    • January 11th 2018 @ 9:30am
      paul said | January 11th 2018 @ 9:30am | ! Report

      Ronan, I can’t grasp your logic for some of the statements you make.

      You reckon Burns should play because Bancroft “failed on fantastic batting tracks against limp, one-dimensional bowling”. Maybe it’s escaped your attention, but the guy has to open the batting, the hardest job in Test batting. There were only a couple of times he and Warner failed to give Australia an excellent platform to make big scores, which is exactly what an opener is expected to do. He batted 8 times, looked good in Brisbane both times, was run out in Adelaide and got a snorter in Sydney, which would have got any right hander. I’m still not sure what weakness was exposed that one or two decent scores won’t cure.

      Your justification for playing Handscomb is because he’s “been on the receiving end of some tough calls by selectors in recent times”. What was the “tough call” about Handscomb? He could hardly put bat on ball in his last innings against a “limp, one-dimensional attack” and was rightly dropped. He’s done nothing to justify a recall since in FC games, simply because none have been played, so he’s should go to SA by batting worse than Bancroft?

      Tremain and Burns should go, as should Maxwell, but that’s based quite rightly on performances. Bancroft will go for sure and maybe another quick. Bancroft willalso play in the lead up game and if he makes runs, will open in the first Test.

      • Roar Rookie

        January 11th 2018 @ 9:48am
        Roger said | January 11th 2018 @ 9:48am | ! Report

        Bancroft got a decent nut in Sydney but to claim it would have done any right hander in is a stretching it a bit paul – The saffers will eat him given their pitches are likely to be well livelier than ours.

        • January 12th 2018 @ 12:17am
          DaveJ said | January 12th 2018 @ 12:17am | ! Report


      • Roar Guru

        January 11th 2018 @ 9:49am
        Ryan H said | January 11th 2018 @ 9:49am | ! Report

        He didn’t look good however in the first innings at Brisbane, he nicked off early to Broad making just 5.

        I think the issue people have is that he has missed some straight ones, and if you are missing straight balls that is a concerning sign. If he was largely troubled by medium fast, ageing quicks when the ball wasn’t doing a whole lot on mostly flat pitches in Australia, it’s a scary thought what exposing him to Philander, Steyn, Morkel and Rabada may do in bowler-friendly conditions.

        Granted, he did show on several occassions he can wear down the new ball and dig in, so that aspect of his batting as opener was impressive.

        • January 11th 2018 @ 12:07pm
          Don Freo said | January 11th 2018 @ 12:07pm | ! Report

          He didn’t miss straight ones. They moved.

          Ideally they wouldn’t get him out but he faced hundreds of balls that moved in this series that didn’t get him out. 3 of them did.

          He has done ok. People forget how vulnerable Burns looked against the moving ball, playing away from his body.

          This Shield season, Bancroft has a substantially better Shield return than Burns. Bancroft would have to fail regularly before he is dropped. Lehmann and Smith have said much about what he has brought to the team and its performance so far.

          Burns’ fielding is not strong either.

          • Roar Guru

            January 11th 2018 @ 12:11pm
            Ryan H said | January 11th 2018 @ 12:11pm | ! Report

            Yes I would like to point out I hope Bancroft is given first opportunity in RSA. As I said, I think he displayed enough good qualities of an opener in the Ashes that were promising, and was part of some significant stands with Warner. But I felt the Eng bowlers gradually worked out where he was vulnerable, and I fear for him being exposed by Philander and co.

          • Roar Rookie

            January 11th 2018 @ 2:08pm
            Matthew Pearce said | January 11th 2018 @ 2:08pm | ! Report

            They didn’t move that much. Both his last dismissals where he was bowled, the gap between his bat and pad was what got him, not the fairly minimal movement. Every armchair coach has a different interpretation of technique so I’m not touching that, all I’ll say there is that consistently getting out the same way isn’t usually a good sign.

            Burns has scored over 1000 Shield runs since he was dumped. Last season (which should still be relevant, you need sustained form to be picked), he scored 700. Bancroft had a pretty poor season last time round if I remember correctly.

            Burns certainly didn’t look poor against the moving ball in NZ where he made 170 and 65. He only failed where everyone else also did, but still copped the axe.

            Hope you’re not basing that statement on his fielding on last night, that’s about the only catch he’s dropped all summer. Everyone drops catches from time to time, including Bancroft. Also has a personal FC best of 7 catches at 1st slip in one match. Nothing wrong with his fielding.

            Picking Bancroft was the right call at the time, but he hasn’t done enough to warrant keeping his spot.

            • January 11th 2018 @ 7:20pm
              Steve Squires said | January 11th 2018 @ 7:20pm | ! Report

              I think Don must be thinking about Burns’ dropped catch last night, which was one of the toughest sky ball chances we’ve seen this summer. Burns generally has very safe hands, I agree. He didn’t always look comfortable at bat pad in the Test team, but why should he have looked comfortable, when he doesn’t field there for QLD.
              Bancroft is excellent at bat-pad but that’s because he fields there regularly. He is probably a slightly better fielder than Burns overall, but it’s very marginal and you’d rather your opener average 38 than 25 across a 4 Test series.

              • Roar Rookie

                January 11th 2018 @ 9:36pm
                Matthew Pearce said | January 11th 2018 @ 9:36pm | ! Report

                I hate this apparent culture of “put the new bloke at bat pad”. They complained about dropped catches from critical positions like there but couldn’t put the dots together.

                Burns is a specialist slips fielder who does well in the outfield too, something we’ve struggled a bit with of late.

              • January 12th 2018 @ 12:20am
                Rob said | January 12th 2018 @ 12:20am | ! Report

                The Australian fielding has been ordinary and it’s been slowly getting worse. I did consider Smith to have a safe set of hands. If I compared Smith to M.Taylor the Waugh’s or Ponting he wouldn’t hold a candle to them. The Marsh boys couldn’t catch a cold and when Khawaja is looking good in the field you know the overall standard isn’t very high.

          • January 11th 2018 @ 5:50pm
            Ben Brown said | January 11th 2018 @ 5:50pm | ! Report

            “People forget how vulnerable Burns looked against the moving ball”, yet he still averaged 38 as opposed to 25, statistics do tell almost the entire story there Don.

            • January 11th 2018 @ 10:12pm
              Don Freo said | January 11th 2018 @ 10:12pm | ! Report

              You probably need to read up on how averages work.

              It doesn’t mean he got 38 every innings. You’ll understand eventually.

              • January 12th 2018 @ 2:58pm
                matth said | January 12th 2018 @ 2:58pm | ! Report

                That comment is just strange. It does mean, subject to not outs, that Burns has on average scored 13 more runs per innings than Bancroft across their test opportunities to date. Sure it won’t happen every innings, but consider Bancroft was not out in one of his 10 innings as well. Burns has no not outs. Burns has 3 centuries in 13 tests. Bancroft has none.

                I’m not saying Bancroft should necessarily be thrown to the wolves, but to deny that Burns currently has a better test record than Bancroft is delusional.

              • January 12th 2018 @ 4:17pm
                Don Freo said | January 12th 2018 @ 4:17pm | ! Report

                Nowhere am I arguing one is better than the other.

                Burns is very loose outside off. He is not a solid opener. He averaged 50 after his first series. He averaged 38 by the time he was omitted. How do you think his average went down by 12? By getting 50s?

                He began to get out cheaply and that impacted on his numbers.

              • Roar Rookie

                January 12th 2018 @ 4:45pm
                Matthew Pearce said | January 12th 2018 @ 4:45pm | ! Report

                That’s not quite accurate, Don.

                Burns averaged mid-30s after his *first* series, which was the second half of India’s test tour, where he scored a pair of 50s in his second test.
                Batted at 6 as well.

                His first stint as opener was the subsequent home summer, where he scored 3 centuries and 2 fifties from his next 7 tests, including 170 and 65 in the second test in NZ. First dumped after two tests in Sri Lanka (along with Khawaja), then got the twin failures in Tassie and the “reshuffle” of the Aussie outfit.

                Your statement there isn’t quite right, he averaged almost 50 by the SL tour (which is even in the article), and was then only given three tests over two stints. Less than what Bancroft has so far been afforded.

                You can say what you like about Burns, but the fact that, even if he isn’t “a solid opener”, he still has better FC and test stats than the bloke in there now speaks volumes.

              • Roar Rookie

                January 12th 2018 @ 4:54pm
                Matthew Pearce said | January 12th 2018 @ 4:54pm | ! Report

                Correction, 8 tests, not 7.

              • January 12th 2018 @ 4:55pm
                Don Freo said | January 12th 2018 @ 4:55pm | ! Report

                I have no problems with Burns in the middle order. That’s where his batting is suited, not opening.

                Once again, I’ll state, I am not claiming one is superior to the other. Why do people keep wanting to set up a conflict.

                We have well over 30 batsmen in Shield cricket that would make a go of Test cricket given a chance.

                Simply Burns is not as suited to opening as Bancroft. Burns will not be picked to open for Oz in SA.

              • Roar Rookie

                January 12th 2018 @ 5:15pm
                Matthew Pearce said | January 12th 2018 @ 5:15pm | ! Report

                Mate, when have I ever tried to set you up for conflict? I have no intention of doing so, no need to take what I say at anything other than face value.

                Burns’ technique is more suited to being a middle order bat, yes, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a proper opener, nor does it mean that he’s not as good at opening as Bancroft (or any other opener).

                Bancroft didn’t take his chances this series. 5 tests in (generally) fairly docile batting conditions is a good enough chance. He performed half as well as the next worst batsman. There is, and should be, pressure on him for his spot.

                Pure and simple, one 50 and a 25 average for a batsman and “pure” opener in these conditions is not good enough. Burns has objectively better FC and test records.

              • January 12th 2018 @ 5:35pm
                Don Freo said | January 12th 2018 @ 5:35pm | ! Report

                Not between posters…although many want that.

                I mean conflict between players. In this case the call to pick Burns is based on claims that Bancroft is a failure.

                The call to pick Maxi is because the Marshes are hopeless. They are all worthy. Why put down a player because he is not you preferred choice?

                I’d much prefer to hear what Lehmann, Smith or Hohns says and look at what they are affirming.

                One player is not good because the other isn’t. They are both good…in many cases, all 5 or 6 candidates are good.

              • Roar Rookie

                January 12th 2018 @ 6:13pm
                Matthew Pearce said | January 12th 2018 @ 6:13pm | ! Report

                Fair enough, my bad. But there’s competition there. They have similar roles in the team and are competing for the same spot. Professional, not personal, is the key.

                There is a difference between “Bancroft is a failure” and “Bancroft didn’t do well enough”. Most of us are saying the former. I argued for Bancroft at the start of the Ashes, but he’s had a fair chance and hasn’t done well enough.

                I haven’t said any of that, either. I’ve always rated both the Marshes, I’ve argued for Maxi on his own merits. I was saying he needed to replace Ussie, because Ussie wasn’t doing much either. I’m still not 100% convinced there either.

                A century would’ve been something. A few fifties would’ve been something. Hell, even two fifties would’ve been *something*. He simply hasn’t shown that he’s ready.

      • January 11th 2018 @ 10:38am
        jameswm said | January 11th 2018 @ 10:38am | ! Report

        “got a snorter in Sydney, which would have got any right hander”

        Sorry, that’s just not right. Smith for starters would have close to middled it.

        It swung in a bit – funny that, considering it’s Broad’s stock ball and he had a new cherry. It was an accurate stock standard inswinger that swung a bit, and the sort of ball an opener should be able to handle. However, he committed too early and didn’t adjust. Punter used to do that, esp early on, but he had a good enough eye to get away with it most of the time.

    • Roar Rookie

      January 11th 2018 @ 9:46am
      Roger said | January 11th 2018 @ 9:46am | ! Report

      I agree with your call for Bancroft to stay home Ronan (and for the same reasons) but I’d be inclined to leave Handscombe at home too. The same “limp” bowling attack that exposed Bancroft left him looking like a stranded whale and with no FC cricket being played for him to work it out in leaves him in the same boat.

      Maxwell in for Handscombe and Burns in for Bancroft.

      • January 11th 2018 @ 10:39am
        jameswm said | January 11th 2018 @ 10:39am | ! Report

        I think we need to take at least one of Handscomb and Bancroft. We need a keeping backup in case Paine treads on a ball in warm up.

    • Roar Guru

      January 11th 2018 @ 10:00am
      DingoGray said | January 11th 2018 @ 10:00am | ! Report

      I like Tremain! He’s very very good.

      For me Bird is still the next best. I don’t think you can take too much of the Melbourne Test into.

      I agree we can’t take both Bird and Sayers, that’s pointless

      • Columnist

        January 11th 2018 @ 10:33am
        Ronan O'Connell said | January 11th 2018 @ 10:33am | ! Report

        Dingo I know the Melbourne pitch was very flat but geez Bird bowled awfully in that Test, his control was very poor, I thought he looked the least threatening quick from either team, which is really saying something.

        I’ve long been a fan of Bird but he needs to bowl much, much better than that next time he gets a Test or Australia should start giving opportunities to other guys.

        • Roar Guru

          January 11th 2018 @ 12:08pm
          DingoGray said | January 11th 2018 @ 12:08pm | ! Report

          I agree he wasn’t at his best. But he certainly wasn’t helped by the conditions.

          I think the performances of Cummins, Hazelwood and Starc tend to bring more criticism towards Bird.

          I’m still a big believer that he’s still well in front of Sayers and anyone else for that matter.

          But yeah if he gets another opportunity he would want a much better performance to consolidate that standing.

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