My squad for the South Africa Test series

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By J Ball, J Ball is a Roar Pro New author!

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    With the crucial South Africa Test series looming, every man and his dog has been stumping up their preferred Test squads for the series.

    I have picked five batsmen, four players I have classed as all-rounders, one specialist wicketkeeper – though there are also two batsmen who can keep competently – and five bowlers.

    My criteria was a bit more than ‘change your last name to Marsh’ or ‘play for New South Wales’ – although I do recommend the latter, as more than a third of the squad are New South Welshmen compared to just two in the squad being Marshes.

    I paid special attention to Sheffield Shield form as well as efforts in the Ashes and through Tests in general for 2017.


    David Warner
    New South Wales, vice-captain, 543 runs at 90.5 in Tests in South Africa

    He’s a shoo-in for the opening spot, which has been the case since his last tour of South Africa, where he scored three hundreds, including twin tons (135 and 145) in the decisive Test.

    While the Ashes yielded only one triple-figure score for him, on a road of a pitch he scored 997 runs in total in 2017. He’ll be an important asset for the series, and if he fires, Australia are well on their way towards winning.

    Cameron Bancroft
    Western Australia, never played in South Africa

    Bancroft made his Test debut in the Ashes after brilliant Sheffield Shield form, but he’s under pressure to keep his spot after passing 50 only once during the series.

    This will be a great opportunity to see whether he deserves a spot in the side. His saving grace could be his wicketkeeping ability, which is next best after Tim Paine, which would see him put on the gloves if Paine had to miss any Tests.

    Joe Burns
    Queensland, never played in South Africa

    Burns edges Matt Renshaw on experience and form. He’s played 13 Tests for three hundreds, and while a form slump led to his replacement by Renshaw, his Shield form has been incredible.

    At 28, Burns is in his prime to shine. He won’t be in the original XI, but if Bancroft fails, it’s all eyes on him.

    (AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy)

    Peter Handscomb
    Victoria, never played South Africa

    After 12 Tests at an average of 47.3 Handscomb was perhaps harshly dropped to make way for the armchair critic’s nemesis, Mitchell Marsh. In hindsight Handscomb probably had to go to fix up the team balance, but he definitely still deserves to be around the Australian side.

    He can also keep, but Bancroft’s slightly better, so he will be judged purely on batting form.

    Usman Khawaja
    Queensland, 77 runs at 38.5

    The Queensland captain is a good asset to the top order, bringing stability that allows Warner and Steve Smith to attack freely.

    He was in great Shield form earlier this season and managed to peak in the final Ashes Test with 171 against Sydney. He has scored only one hundred away from home – can he show he’s must-have batsman rather than a home-track bully?

    Shaun Marsh
    Western Australia, 236 runs at 39.3

    Just when we thought the 34-year-old Marsh was finally gone, he comes back again – and with two brilliant Ashes hundreds his stay will be more than brief.

    However, I’ve always been a firm believer in the oldest son of Geoff Marsh, who brings experience to the middle order. His longest stay in the Test team is seven Tests. He should beat that on this tour.

    (Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)


    Steve Smith
    New South Wales, captain, 269 runs at 67.2

    I was mulling on whether to select Smith or bring Don Bradman. ‘Braddles’ does have a far better Test average to the mere mortal Smith, but he never toured South Africa, so it’s Smith.

    In his last innings against England he scored 83. He will be required to lift his form or his spot in the Test team will be up for grabs for sure. I put him in the all-rounder category because he can bowl a couple of overs for leg spin, and with the calibre and depth of our bowling stocks that’s all we really need.

    Mitchell Marsh
    Western Australia, never played in South Africa

    One half of the Most Despised Couple in Australia™, Mitch Marsh also managed to prove his knockers wrong with his two hundreds coming in the just concluded Ashes series. It’s okay that he didn’t strike much with his bowling, because, as mentioned earlier, we need only a few overs from him.

    Glenn Maxwell
    Victoria, never played in South Africa

    Maxwell has been in the news recently due to his snub in the one-day series against England. However, based on Shield form he cannot be ignored for this series. He won’t be the first choice, but if one of the Marsh brothers fail, he’s there as a back-up. He can also bowl a few overs of handy off spin.

    Pat Cummins
    New South Wales never played

    Cummins’s return to the Australian Test side was an experience of delight for all Australians and fear for everybody else who cares about cricket.

    It will be exciting to see the leading Ashes wicket-taker from last series pitted against South Africa’s fast men. The fact he got through an entire five-match series without being injured or being caught smoking is encouraging. He deserves to be upgraded to a bowling all-rounder due to his good performances with the stick in the Ashes.

    (Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)


    Tim Paine
    Tasmania, never played in South Africa

    Australia’s version of Carlos Santana, who went away after a brief moment in the spotlight and was virtually forgotten about for years. Then suddenly, out of nowhere and against all odds, he pops up again and he seems like a new face before you realise, “Hang on, I’ve seen this guy before”.

    Sure, Paine was gone from Test cricket for only seven years, but seven years is a very long time in modern Australian cricket. He’s a wicketkeeper. That’s all I can really say about him or about any other wicketkeeper.


    Jackson Bird
    Tasmania, never played in South Africa

    Bird had a nightmare Test return in the recent Boxing Day Test but, to be fair, he would’ve taken a wicket if it was any other ground in the series. I still believe he is the best backup paceman – better than Chadd Sayers (sorry, South Australians) due to his blazing Shield form.

    Don’t believe me? Check this link. Or I could just tell you he has the most wickets so far this season for Sheffield Shield and the third-best average for someone who’s bowled 50 overs.

    Josh Hazlewood
    New South Wales, never played in South Africa

    The modern Glenn McGrath, except that he’s a little better with the bat. I don’t have much to say about him, really. He doesn’t take two hat-tricks in a match, injure himself or send lewd text messages. He’s just there. Maybe he should be a wicketkeeper.

    One thing I will say is that he’s a very important part of the side and he’s integral to the team’s plans. You’d hope so, anyway.

    (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    Jon Holland
    Victoria, never played in South Africa

    One of the unluckiest Australian cricketers in recent memory, but in a Brad Hodge way rather than a Shaun Marsh and Jackson Bird way. He takes wickets for fun in the Sheffield Shield but has played just two Test matches. He’s definitely the second-best spinner in Australia behind the GOAT, who’s also occasionally called Nathan Lyon.

    Mitchell Swepson has been preferred over him but, at 24, he’ll get his chance. As a side note, he’s probably ruing the fact that while he was twirling it in club leagues about 12 spinners were tried and failed for Australia. But when he come’s good, Australia finally finds a good spinner (Lyon) that they can stick with.

    Nathan Lyon, greatest of all time
    New South Wales, 12 wickets at 36.0

    Destined for great things when he got a wicket with his first Test ball, Nathan Michael ‘Garry’ Lyon dipped in form and was dropped a couple of years after debut. As recently as the Perth debacle of 2016 he took just 2/184 at more than four an over then went wicketless in the more well-known Hobart debacle of 2016. However, since then he went from easy batting practise to the greatest of all time. Leading Test wicket-taker of 2017 should tell you enough.

    Mitchell Starc
    New South Wales, never played in South Africa

    Australia’s main strike bowler, Starc’s summer started brilliantly as he incredibly took two hat-tricks in a first-class match. However, he missed the Boxing Day Test with a heel injury and didn’t look 100 per cent for the Sydney Test. He will likely be rested in some of the England one-dayers as well as the T20 tri-series against England and New Zealand. He will need to be fit for this series, because he is irreplaceable.

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    The Crowd Says (13)

    • January 13th 2018 @ 8:33am
      Linphoma said | January 13th 2018 @ 8:33am | ! Report

      Sorry Jackson but I believe Cummins famously debuted as a teenager in South Africa so he most definitely has played there before.

      • January 13th 2018 @ 10:00am
        J Ball said | January 13th 2018 @ 10:00am | ! Report

        Sorry Linphoma my mistake that one. Brilliant debut as well, with 7 wickets and the winning runs

    • January 13th 2018 @ 10:37am
      paul said | January 13th 2018 @ 10:37am | ! Report

      I like your touring party Jackson, with the exception of Holland who wouldn’t get a game, but am not in love with the titles you’ve bestowed.

      Smith, Cummins, Maxwell and MM are there for a specialist reason, be it batting or bowling. To tag them as all-rounders almost implies the other string to their bow is Test quality, ie Cummins could be picked as a batsman if he was not able to bowl because of injury, for example.

      I’ve said it repeatedly on the Roar – the mistake the selectors have mode for the past 10 years has been trying to manufacture a Test quality all-rounder, when one of these simply hasn’t come along.

      All of the “all-rounders” you named deserve to be there because they’ve shown they’re test quality with either bat or ball. If they can trundle a few overs without getting hammered, or make a few runs to help rescue an innings, that’s a bonus, but please don’t make them something their not.

    • January 13th 2018 @ 11:26am
      Bearfax said | January 13th 2018 @ 11:26am | ! Report

      J. Muscat, I’ve discussed your selection with my dog (every selector should have one) and he’s wagged his tail with some approval. His only variation would be Renshaw for Burns, because he sees Renshaw as a future long term test opener, even if not just at this moment, and feels the experience would be good for the young pup. My dog usually has a good nose for such things,

      • January 13th 2018 @ 3:48pm
        Ken Hayes said | January 13th 2018 @ 3:48pm | ! Report

        Burns and Renshaw should both be there, if the side were fairly picked, but all of Marshia would be up in arms if one of the protected species were to be dropped.

        • January 13th 2018 @ 4:55pm
          Bearfax said | January 13th 2018 @ 4:55pm | ! Report

          The Marsh brothers are doing what needs to be done to hold onto their test spots, even though I agree that they received an arm chair ride smacking of favouritism in their selections on many occasions. But they are at present repaying the selectors faith in them and therefore deserve their places for now. Therefore in my opinion its between Renshaw and Burns for the last spot. I always tend to support the younger player because usually they have more potential development in them, than the older players who is near the peak of his career. But I wouldnt be unhappy with Burns selection. He still may prove as test asset.

    • January 13th 2018 @ 11:44am
      Ian said | January 13th 2018 @ 11:44am | ! Report

      I wouldn’t mind that team, and I think it will be close to what the selectors pick. I suspect they’ll go with Agar rather than Holland as the second spinner, though.

      • January 13th 2018 @ 12:07pm
        paul said | January 13th 2018 @ 12:07pm | ! Report

        They won’t take a second spinner because the pitches will be tailored for the quicks. Newlands was a prime example, 18 wickets lost in a day.

        If Lyons get’s injured they can fly another spinner in, but even Lyons won’t get a lot of overs I suspect.

        • January 13th 2018 @ 1:59pm
          DaveJ said | January 13th 2018 @ 1:59pm | ! Report

          True, but spinners can play a role. Even Moeen Ali took 7 in a match when England won two years ago. Perhaps shows we were lucky he was injuring this summer. SA spinner Maharaj is averaging 23 from 6 Tests at home. Lyon has an average of 36 from 5 matches. He has improved but it will be interesting to see how they compare this time. Holland looks a better spinner than Agar, with a better record; their batting should be irrelevant.

          • January 13th 2018 @ 3:49pm
            Paul said | January 13th 2018 @ 3:49pm | ! Report

            If they take 2 spinners, Holland is better value than Agar because he’s a wicket taker, but again, I can’t see them taking any more than Lyons.

    • January 13th 2018 @ 2:25pm
      DaveJ said | January 13th 2018 @ 2:25pm | ! Report

      Bradman may not have played in South Africa but he did average 201 against them in 5 Tests with 4 centuries (incl 2 double hundreds,) in his one series against them in 1931-32. He didn’t bat on the dicey Melbourne track where SA were dismissed for 36 and 45, and Bert Ironmonger took 11/24. Clarrie Grimmett took 14 wickets in another match. But SA were definitely not the Zimbabwe of their day. They had beaten England in a five Test series in SA the previous year.

      Just reminiscing about the good all days!

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      January 13th 2018 @ 10:21pm
      Saurabh said | January 13th 2018 @ 10:21pm | ! Report

      Pat Cummins played in South Africa one test where he took 9 wickets and hit winning runs.

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