In a recent article, I looked at just which Australian players had participated in the most Test match wins during their careers and who had the best record of wins to losses.
The number 3 spot has been a position that some of the greatest batsmen of the game have occupied. From the greatest in Sir Donald Bradman, to likes of Lara, Ponting, Root, Williamson and the Chappell’s. Even Nathan Lyon! Though he might be great for another reason.
With Usman Khawaja moving on in age it is time to consider who should be developed into our next main first drop batsman.
Khawaja has by no means had a spectacular career averaging only 38 at first drop, he has however, become one of the best batsmen in the country in recent years, behind only Steve Smith and David Warner.
In the past year, the amount of responsibility placed upon him has been great and he responded with averages of 76, 28 and 56 in the past three series without Smith.
No doubt Australia would have been in an even bigger mess without Khawaja and may have completely fallen in a heap. But as he is reaching the tail end of his career, we may only get 2-4 more years out of him if we are doing well, and we must consider our options to promote to number 3. I have compiled a list below.
While Steve Smith has been mostly batting at 4, he has spent some time at number three and has had a very healthy return from that position. At 3 he has scored 1744 runs at 67. This is trumped by his returns at 4 which stand at 2673 run at 74.
While Smith would be also around 32 if he got promoted when Khawaja finishes up, he would have at least four years left in the tank of solid runs, and it could be hugely beneficial to both a younger middle order and to his leadership credentials, assuming he is captain again.
While he is the best since Bradman, there could be major flaws with his technique exposed by the swinging ball if he is coming in very early, specifically lbw and leading edges from flicking the ball across his pads.
That being said, he is one of the best batsmen ever, so this would most likely prove a minor problem.
Young Marnus has shown a lot of promise both at an international level and a state/county level. His time at first drop for Queensland hasn’t been the most successful, his form for Glamorgan has been second to none with him currently topping the division run-scorers with 1114 at 65.5.
To put this into comparison his closest rival is Dawid Malan with 885, a gap of 229. If given the time, Marnus could be able to develop into a fine number three, with a wide array of shots and a solid defence.
The thing I like most about Marnus is his footwork and his dead straight bat in defence, which can neutralize the swinging ball. He is also one of the few Australian’s who is very confident and able to play the sweep shot, which adds variety to counter spin bowlers as well with his wonderful sweeping was on display against Sri Lanka.
Marnus can be very shaky and sometimes struggles to control his flicks, so he would need some time to work on certain areas of his batting before heading into number three, which would work around Khawaja’s career ending.
Will Puckovski bats at first drop for Victoria and had a very dominant season in the shield for the Bushies, which resulted in his call up to the test team and his tour of the UK.
I haven’t followed Puckovski much, but it seems he is incredibly strong on short pitch bowling and on driving straight down the ground.
From watching highlights, I believe a weakness would be the length ball just outside off, where he has a tendency to hang his bat a little, which leads to him nicking off.
Overall though, he has huge potential and I look forward to seeing his career progress.
Patterson has come out all guns blazing with a fantastic Test debut and a solid Shield season which has seen him score 724 runs at 40.
Patterson has always been a run machine since his debut and has even been compared to the great Sir Alastair Cook, who is one of the toughest players ever.
He has been a pure run machine for New South Wales, constantly being in the top three run scorers since 2015, and he almost deserved a call up a few years ago, but it may be for better he has waited.
After test debut, Justin Langer described him as “every part a test player” and with a very solid technique and mental toughness, Patterson would be arguably one of the best options for the number three role after a few years in the test circuit.
He is my pick to make a major impact at first drop for Australia, and I believe was a mistake to leave out of the Ashes Squad.
Here are the main four players to look out for in the coming years and I certainly hope that the smart Roarers that you are will be able to throw a few more names in the ring.