There appears to be five candidates for the remaining middle order Test slot in the opening Test against Pakistan.
One astute move may be to start Matthew Wade at number five and open the debate for who starts at number six in the side.
Wade has done enough in the opening Sheffield Shield matches and enough in England to secure his place, with the only concern around his future being spin, particularly next year when India tour. Wade appears to be fairly secure for the entire summer unless he has successive failures against Pakistan and New Zealand.
With Tim Paine secure in the side as captain this summer, it leaves an open place at number six due to Travis Head’s inconsistent and reckless form in England and only one good Shield innings in six starts this summer.
The other candidates for the position are Alex Carey, Nic Maddinson, Will Pucovski and Marcus Stoinis, who has the added plus of his consistent wicket-taking this summer.
The first three Shield matches are crucial to selection, per coach Justin Langer’s recent comments. Head was expected to make his mark after the England tour but has he done enough compared to others in the mix?
The other candidates have hit more runs than Head in the first three Shield matches, especially Carey. His form in England was a major concern.
Being groomed for the captaincy does not stand up as an excuse where form dips while other candidates consistently perform better. That’s not to say Head can’t rack up some runs in the Shield this summer and gain his place again. He is clearly very talented and still very young but competition is a good thing and it improves the Australian Test team.
Head hasn’t done enough in the Shield to get back into the side compared to Alex Carey, Nic Maddinson and Marcus Stoinis, who have been much more consistent. Will Pucovski has not been so good on harder pitches this summer.
Stoinis was the most consistent with the bat over the last three domestic games. He warrants consideration for the Gabba with his Shield form.
There were big innings from most candidates during that run-fest at the Junction Oval, which we can probably run a line through, but note Head failed there.
Carey has suffered some reckless dismissals, while Stoinis was more consistent than both of them, hitting more runs than all his rival candidates.
Pucovski is talented, but his only big score came on a road at the Junction Oval.
Maddinson is putting his hand up and may deserve a chance. He’s an interesting one as he opened the batting in Melbourne on the concrete deck before dropping down the order and continuing to score runs.
Stoinis has been good with the ball, too, which is something the other batsman cannot provide.
On form this season, Stonis, Maddinson and Carey look like stronger selections than Head. Carey was careless at the Gabba but he’s been brilliant in national colours in the limited-overs arena.
For the first Test at the Gabba, I’d be having a serious think about Stoinis, Maddinson and Carey ahead of Head.
Maddinson may deserve a start if they want a batsman who can be reordered to the opening slot in the series if the opening batsman continue to struggle.