Matt Renshaw will return to Test cricket against South Africa on Friday in the form of his life, having piled up an incredible 705 runs at 78 from his past dozen first-class innings.
Renshaw was last night recalled to the Australian squad to replace one of either David Warner or Cameron Bancroft, two of the central figures in Australia’s ball-tampering scandal.
The 21-year-old opening batsman has come full circle since being dumped for the Ashes, at a time when he was suffering the worst slump of his brief professional career.
More on ball-tampering sanctions
» Australia’s on-field leaders have been banished, but this is just the beginning
» Smith, Warner, and Bancroft to be sent home as Lehmann found innocent
» “Australian cricket is in deep s***”: Michael Clarke not satisfied with CA response
Renshaw had a sensational start to his Test career but then made himself virtually unselectable for against England by averaging just 14 with the bat in 16 first-class innings leading up to the first Test.
He worked to iron out flaws in his technique, particularly against right-arm quicks from around the wicket, and was rewarded with a stunning run with the blade in the second half of the Shield season.
That culminated in Renshaw living out the dream of cracking the winning runs in the Shield final yesterday, as he made 82* in the second innings to lead Queensland to victory over Tasmania.
Renshaw’s return to the Test team must not be a stop-gap – he should be given an extended run as opener and Cameron Bancroft banished from the team for his ball-tampering disgrace.
Australia must overhaul the poisonous team culture which allowed cheating to take place and, as part of such a process, Bancroft cannot be allowed to return immediately after serving his one-match ICC suspension. He should be forced to return to domestic cricket to try to earn back the Test spot he forfeited with his stupidity.
Renshaw, meanwhile, is richly deserving of a second chance. Not only did he perform admirably across a variety of conditions during his first Test stint, but he’s also shown great character in recent months.
For many young players, being dumped for a home Ashes series could take a long time to overcome, diminishing their confidence and opening the door to a victim mentality. Instead, Renshaw not only banished these demons swiftly but went on to dominate the Shield competition in a rare manner.
[latest_videos_strip category=”cricket” name=”Cricket”]
The fact he did so against the swinging Dukes ball, which was used in all Shield matches after Christmas, is reason to be optimistic about his chances of succeeding in next year’s Ashes.
The Dukes ball has been the undoing of many Australian Test batsmen in recent years but Renshaw has shown a liking to it.
First, however, he will need to combat the Kookaburra ball being propelled by South Africa’s elite bowling attack in the fourth Test in Johannesburg. This will be the greatest challenge of Renshaw’s career. The world’s number one Test bowler, Kagiso Rabada, is in terrifying touch, while his pace colleagues Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander both returned to form in the third Test.
Renshaw’s rejigged technique may have passed with flying colours in the Shield but this will be an examination on an entirely different level. Rabada and Morkel are both superb around the wicket to left handers, while Philander has an incredible record against lefties, more often bowling from over the wicket.
Given the quality of his opponents and the crushing pressure on the Australian team in this Test, Renshaw may never again encounter such arduous circumstances.
If he can flourish in this situation, regular Test cricket will surely seem elementary.