Batting prodigy Will Pucovski will advance his case for Test selection after being named in a strong Australia A side to take on Pakistan in a tour match.
Alex Carey will captain the XI for the three-day match at Perth Stadium starting on November 11.
Incumbent Test opener Marcus Harris and Ashes squad members Usman Khawaja and Travis Head have also been named to play in the day-night match, which precedes the first Test against Pakistan starting in Brisbane on November 21.
The selections suggest that two batting positions remain open in Australia’s Test XI – one opening slot and the other at No.6.
Pucovski is a strong chance to snare the latter, having come close to making his Test debut in the series against Sri Lanka last summer.
The 21-year-old was instead released from Australia’s squad as he continued to grapple with mental health issues.
Pucovski averaged 54 in the 2018-19 Sheffield Shield season and has also started the current Shield season in sparkling form.
Mitch Marsh, the incumbent Test No.6, blew his chances when he punched a wall and broke his hand after being dismissed in the Shield earlier this month.
Head also batted at No.6 during the Ashes but has struggled to find runs in the domestic season so far.
The South Australian was Test vice-captain during the Ashes but has been overlooked for Australia A leadership honours in favour of state teammate Carey.
Harris has been in solid Shield form but will need to stave off any late bids from Khawaja and Joe Burns for the remaining opening slot.
Nic Maddinson has also been named in the Australia A side and looms as a Test smokey after piling on domestic runs over the past 12 months.
“Will Pucovski and Nic Maddinson have started the season strongly for Victoria and we’re looking forward to giving them an opportunity to perform against a quality international team,” national selector Trevor Hohns said.
“Both are exciting batsmen whom we’ve had our eye on for some time.
“We will closely monitor performances in this match as well as the coming rounds of the Sheffield Shield before deciding upon our squad for the two-Test series against Pakistan.”
In-form Marnus Labuschagne appears certain to bat at No.3 in the first Test against Pakistan and Matthew Wade looks set to keep his No.5 spot, with Steve Smith, David Warner and skipper Tim Paine the other incumbents.
Queensland’s Michael Neser and Western Australia’s Jhye Richardson will anchor the Australia A pace attack and are the leading contenders to replace first-choice quicks Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, James Pattinson and Mitchell Starc.
Recent Test batsmen Cameron Bancroft and Kurtis Patterson are notable omissions.
Australia A XI
Alex Carey (c)
Usman Khawaja (vc)
Travis Head (vc)