A possible Australian Test team to take on Pakistan

Stephen Vagg Roar Guru

By Stephen Vagg, Stephen Vagg is a Roar Guru


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    Like I lot of people who read The Roar, I enjoy being a self-appointed selector and doing my own hypothetical Test XIs. It’s part of the fun of following a sport – it’s also a way of channelling frustration at some of the decisions of the real selectors.

    A two-Test series against Pakistan is coming up in the UAE. It’s a really intriguing time because of sandpapergate – but even had Dave Warner, Steve Smith and Cameron Bancroft been available for selection, the performance bar for Australian teams overseas is extremely low because of our rotten record.

    In recent years we’ve been wiped out by England, India, Sri Lanka, South Africa and Pakistan in their own backyards (counting the UAE as home for Pakistan), and only just got away with a draw against Bangladesh. If Australia manage to not be thrashed in both Tests it’ll probably be acclaimed as a great victory for the new Langer-Paine regime – and in fairness, that would an improvement.

    Who should play in the Tests? Selection got a bit tricker with Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins ruled out but there are still plenty of really strong players available.

    My team at the moment, for what it’s worth (i.e. not much!), is this:

    Suggested Australian XI to play Pakistan

    1) Matt Renshaw: Been in blistering county and Shield form, he’s been through his sophomore slump, the stage is set for him to stay at the top of the order for a decade.

    2) Usman Khawaja: I go hot and cold on Khawaja, but his county form has been impressive. He opens for Queensland and he’d partner well with Renshaw.

    3) Travis Head: He never quite breaks through in the way he promises to but he played some wonderful Shield innings last season, his batting is improving, and he offers a bowling option and captaincy experience. For me, this gives him the edge over, say, Shaun Marsh or Joe Burns.

    4) George Bailey (vc): A tough campaigner. Has as good a first class average as Shaun Marsh and offers better fielding and captaincy options. Teams seem to win when he’s in them. And I feel Australia could use his good nature and mature head.

    5) Peter Handscomb: Good player against spin, good fielder, smart head.

    6) Glenn Maxwell: The best fielder in the country, offers a bowling option and has solid first class form. Just needs one-fifth the support and patience that’s been given to Mitchell Marsh.

    Glenn Maxwell Cricket Australia 2017

    (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)

    7) Tim Paine (c): Has done a tough job in difficult circumstances and deserves his gig. He would have plenty of captaincy support with Bailey, Handscomb, Head and Khawaja in the side.

    8) Steve O’Keefe: I don’t know who he’s annoyed at the moment but he’s still the second best spin bowler in the country. If he’s injured, then Jon Holland, who’s the third best.

    9) Mitchell Starc: A lock.

    10) Nathan Lyon: Another lock

    11): The second paceman is… honestly I’m open about this one. On UAE wickets I’d be happy with Chris Tremain, Jackson Bird or Chad Sayers. I’d go experience. And a medium pacer would go better in the UAE than a speedster.

    I haven’t picked the Marshes. Mitchell still averages 30 with the bat at first class level and was poor in series loses against Sri Lanka, South Africa, England and Pakistan. Shaun has had his moments but is the oldest promising player in Australian cricket and doesn’t bring anything else to the party (captaincy, fielding or bowling).

    Both will play however because Langer has such an investment in their success and also, to be fair, both had their moments over the last summer.

    I think Langer will push for a West Australian for that second paceman spot, and I doubt anyone will fight him too hard because of the Australian selectors’ traditional preference for bowlers who can clock over 140 km/h, because that’s been so successful overseas (to clarify – I was being sarcastic there because it hasn’t, but they don’t seem to have realised).

    I also think Langer will push for Ashton Agar as the second spinner because of the personal connection… but believe Jon Holland is a good chance at the latter if he does well on the Australian A tour. (I stress, this is all guessing.)

    Ashton Agar vs Bangladesh

    (AP Photo/A.M. Ahad)

    The selection panel have gone off Bailey – he’s too old for someone whose surname isn’t Marsh and isn’t a pretty strokemaker. They seem to be on the fence about Head and Handscomb – these two players have a chance to press claims during the Australia A tour. I don’t think Joe Burns is any chance.

    I’ve got no idea what the selectors think of Maxwell in this post-Lehmann, post-Smith era. If he was picked on the Australia A tour, I’d say he was a lock. I get the impression (I could be wrong) they go back and forth – but Ricky Ponting is enthusiastic, which will no doubt carry weight with Langer. Also, Langer can surely see the narrative benefits in being the one who finally turns Maxwell into a Test champion.

    So my feeling is that this is the planned Test team at the moment:

    Likely Australian XI to play Pakistan

    1) Matt Renshaw
    2) Usman Khawaja
    3) Shaun Marsh
    4) Pete Handscomb
    5) Glenn Maxwell
    6) Mitchell Marsh (vice-captain)
    7) Tim Paine (captain)
    8) Ashton Agar
    9) Mitchell Starc
    10) Jhye Richardson
    11) Nathan Lyon

    I think Head and Kurtis Patterson have an excellent chance to supplant Maxwell and Handscomb with strong Australia A performances.

    Am I right? We’ll see.

    Roll on the Australian A tour.

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    The Crowd Says (38)

    • August 13th 2018 @ 9:04am
      Paul said | August 13th 2018 @ 9:04am | ! Report

      The batting looks very weak in this side if Maxwell ( Test av 26) and M Marsh (Test average 27), are batting 5 & 6. Finch must get a game. He is certainly a better batsman than either Maxwell or Marsh and is also in some pretty good form. Head too must be given a look if he makes runs in India

      The bowling needs to be able to send down 90 overs a day. Lyon can bowl long spells but can Agar? Do we want Starc bowling long spells a) when he’s just back from injury and b) when he has a long summer leading into the WC and the Ashes tour? That means the second quick has to be able to bowl 20 overs. There are also need to be quality contributions from Maxwell and Marsh but one has hardly bowled and is M Marsh able to bowl at all?

      I hope our batsmen step up, because a lot of work is likely to fall onto Starc and Lyons shoulders, as the other guys are either yet to prove they’re Test quality, or simply don’t cut it at this level.

      • August 13th 2018 @ 9:44am
        Harvey Wilson said | August 13th 2018 @ 9:44am | ! Report


        Australia need a middle order run grinder.

      • August 13th 2018 @ 10:39am
        Ben said | August 13th 2018 @ 10:39am | ! Report

        First class average
        Maxwel 41
        M marsh 30
        Finch 36
        Head 35

      • Roar Guru

        August 13th 2018 @ 10:45am
        DingoGray said | August 13th 2018 @ 10:45am | ! Report

        Yeah because Finch FC average is so much better than Maxwell and M Marsh……..

      • August 13th 2018 @ 2:26pm
        Stephen Vagg said | August 13th 2018 @ 2:26pm | ! Report

        Finch is in red-hot white ball form at the moment – I wish he’d played some red ball county cricket to give us a better idea of his first class form at the moment. I don’t think he’d be in the frame for UAE but you never know.

        I think Agar could bowl long spells. I’d just prefer O’Keefe/Holland doing it.

    • Roar Pro

      August 13th 2018 @ 9:54am
      Andre Leslie said | August 13th 2018 @ 9:54am | ! Report

      My favourite sentence here is…

      “I think Langer will push for a West Australian for that second paceman spot, and I doubt anyone will fight him too hard because of the Australian selectors’ traditional preference for bowlers who can clock over 140 km/h, because that’s been so successful overseas (to clarify – I was being sarcastic there because it hasn’t, but they don’t seem to have realised).”

      Let’s hope that Langer – with his quirky new ways – might depart from this formula.

      • Roar Guru

        August 13th 2018 @ 1:43pm
        Chris Kettlewell said | August 13th 2018 @ 1:43pm | ! Report

        Although, when it comes to playing in those sorts of conditions, bowlers with a bit of pace and x-factor are about the only options that have any chance. For example Starc’s performance on the last Sri Lanka tour. In dustbowl type conditions someone like Sayers would just be cannon fodder.

        My general thought is that if Starc and M.Marsh are both in the team, that you play them as the only pace bowlers and pick 3 spinners.

        • August 13th 2018 @ 10:07pm
          Stephen Vagg said | August 13th 2018 @ 10:07pm | ! Report

          I get the theory Chris but has that actually worked? When we’ve won on the subcontinent, or come close to winning, its generally been just with solid line and length bowling and decent spin bowling – eg India in 2003. Pace doesn’t seem to help that much – in fact, too much of it can hurt: I think bowling Johnson and Starc in tandem in 2015 was a disastrous mistake.

          I feel when it comes to tours in Asia especially India and the UAE the selectors keep trying to overcomplicate things and be too clever – they bring in bits and piecers like Henriques and M Marsh, or try to open with Maxwell, or bring in Cartwright to play three spinners or pick a keeper who isn’t up to it because of his batting.

          I honestly feel the best way is to back the best players they’ve got – six batters, four bowlers (two spin). Not get too crazy or clever.

          • August 16th 2018 @ 10:27am
            jimbo__ said | August 16th 2018 @ 10:27am | ! Report

            110% ^^ this

    • August 13th 2018 @ 10:09am
      Graham said | August 13th 2018 @ 10:09am | ! Report

      Based purely on 1st class averages (and ignoring lynns struggles with injury)

      S Marsh

      • August 13th 2018 @ 10:08pm
        Stephen Vagg said | August 13th 2018 @ 10:08pm | ! Report

        It’s kind of depressing in Australian first class cricket there are so few batsmen with averages in the mid 40s and above. Hilton Cartwright’s has fallen to 37!!

        I wish whatever physio magic they did on Cummins could be worked on Lynn but can’t see it happening.

    • Roar Guru

      August 13th 2018 @ 10:36am
      JamesH said | August 13th 2018 @ 10:36am | ! Report

      Not sure about your logic on Bailey over Marsh. Yes, Bailey is a better leader and yes, he has a similar FC career average. However, Bailey only averaged 33 in a full Shield Season last summer while Shaun Marsh averaged 38 over the opening matches and then went on to average 74 in the Ashes.

      Marsh had a poor SA series but then, so did everyone else. Plus, he is a genuine top-3 batsman and Head isn’t (he bats at 4 for SA).

      There doesn’t seem to be much sense in dropping one of our most senior batsmen at a time like this. And I say that as a Tasmanian who is a big fan of George.

      S Marsh
      Khawaja (he bats at 3 for Qld, with Burns opening)
      Handscomb (or Patterson, if he has a good India series and Handscomb fails)
      M Marsh (or Finch or Head, if Marsh isn’t fit to bowl)
      Agar (O’Keefe is on the outer and hasn’t bowled a ball in a match since March, while Holland had injuries before the SA tour and hasn’t bowled since Feb)


      • August 13th 2018 @ 10:11pm
        Stephen Vagg said | August 13th 2018 @ 10:11pm | ! Report

        I feel Bailey would just be a good influence to have around the group as well as his batting. I like him so much as a player – I do wish his batting results were batter. But the Australian one day team has never really recovered from punting him. And I wish they’d given him a few more tests.

        Having said all that the team you suggested is probably closer to the one that will get picked.

    • Roar Pro

      August 13th 2018 @ 10:43am
      mrrexdog said | August 13th 2018 @ 10:43am | ! Report

      Bailey would be an interesting choice, here are his first class numbers post the 2015 World Cup:

      2015/16: 761 runs at 47
      2016 (county): 284 runs at 71
      2016/17: 839 runs at 59
      2017 (county): 610 runs at 38
      2017/18: 602 runs at 33

    • August 13th 2018 @ 11:09am
      Targa said | August 13th 2018 @ 11:09am | ! Report

      NZ is off to the UAE (with a new coach – Gary Stead) for 3 tests after Australia. Apart from the injured Mitchell Santner all other main players will be there. The top 6 is set in stone, but questions are over the bowling attack. It looks as if 2 spinners will be picked.

      Jeet Raval
      Tom Latham
      Kane Williamson (c)
      Ross Taylor
      Henry Nicholls
      BJ Watling (wk)

      Trent Boult can probably be locked in at number 11, but 7-10 is interesting.
      It is out of Colin De Grandhomme, Tim Southee, Neil Wagner
      Todd Astle (legspinner), Ish Sodhi (legspinner), Ajaz Patel (SLA)

      I’m picking they’ll go De Grandhomme 7, Astle 8, Wagner 9, Patel 10, Boult 11, but don’t know.

      • August 13th 2018 @ 5:15pm
        BurgyGreen said | August 13th 2018 @ 5:15pm | ! Report

        Yeah surely Wagner and de Grandhomme are locked in, which just leaves you to pick two spinners.

      • August 13th 2018 @ 10:23pm
        Stephen Vagg said | August 13th 2018 @ 10:23pm | ! Report

        That’s a pretty good side. I would’ve loved to have seen how Colin Munroe did at test level but can understand why he made the choices he did.

        Some questions for New Zealand followers (people who follow more closely than I do) – there’s a bloke called Greg Hay who averages 42 has he ever been in the frame?

        Tim Siefert averages 39, Will Young 40,Dane Cleaver 39,Tom Bruce 44. There’s some decent talent on the bench – or so it seems.