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Test cricket summer random predictions: Head to surpass top duo, Lyon on the hunt, Warner's farewell and who'll replace him

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11th December, 2023
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The Test cricket summer is finally upon us so it’s time to make some predictions for how the summer will play out.

If you think it’s been a longer wait than usual, you’re right. Apart from 2020 when the pandemic made international travel all but impossible, this is the latest start to a Test summer since 1976.

Cricket Australia has crammed in the five Tests against Pakistan and the West Indies into December and January before the team crosses the ditch for two more in New Zealand.

It all gets underway at Perth’s Optus Stadium on Thursday with Australia looking to reclaim the No.1 world ranking from India as they build towards their ultimate goal of successfully defending their World Test Championship crown in 2025.

Random predictions for 2023-24

Lance Morris will be the only Australian debutant: Australia coach Andrew McDonald has made it clear that they won’t be bringing in players before they’ve earned their spot just so the ageing team can blood new talent before retirements start to flow. Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins usually miss a Test or two each summer and Morris will be preferred ahead of recent replacements Scott Boland and Michael Neser. 

But don’t expect to see any other new baggy green caps handed out this summer.

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Head to replace Smith and Labuschagne as top batter: Australia’s reliance on Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne in recent years has been a strength and a weakness. But with the rise of Travis Head to world-class runmaker in all three formats, he is on course to become the most important batter in the line-up. 

Australia have never lost a Test on the six occasions when Head’s hit a ton – expect that trend to continue at least two or three times over the next seven matches.

David Warner of Australia celebrates his century during day two of the Second Test match in the series between Australia and South Africa at Melbourne Cricket Ground on December 27, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Pockett - CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

David Warner celebrates his century at Melbourne in 2022. (Photo by Daniel Pockett – CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

David Warner gets his SCG farewell: Unless he gets single-figure scores in Perth and Melbourne, there’s little to no chance the selectors are going to send the controversial opener into an early retirement before he gets to do his SCG lap of honour. 

The pitch is set to be much spicier in Perth after last year’s featherbed and Pakistani pace spearhead Shaheen Shah Afridi got him out twice in Australia’s three-match tour last year. But the MCG drop-in wicket has been favourable for batters in recent years and Warner cashed in last year with his drought-breaking double ton. 

Whether his many critics like it or not, he will be bowing out on his home turf in January.

Matt Renshaw will get recall: With Australia’s team getting long in the tooth, pressure will build on the selectors to bring the average age down so they will opt for the youngest opener of the three racing to replace Warner.

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Renshaw, 27, is four years younger than Cameron Bancroft and Marcus Harris and with seemingly little separating the trio, the Queenslander will get the nod instead of left-field ideas that have been floated in Marnus Labuschagne or Mitchell Marsh being elevated to the top of the order.

Babar Azam will ton up: He had a torrid debut tour to Australia in 2016-17 but was all class four years ago with 104 in Brisbane and 97 in Adelaide but unfortunately received little support from his teammates.

The 29-year-old is all class and now that he doesn’t have to deal with the madness and the politics that comes with being captain, he can focus on what he does best – scoring bulk runs.

Babar Azam of Pakistan celebrates a century during day four of the 1st Domain Test between Australia and Pakistan at The Gabba on November 24, 2019 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Jono Searle - CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

Babar Azam. (Photo by Jono Searle – CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

Alex Carey to revive career after Bairstow brouhaha: The Aussie keeper went off the boil in the wake of the Jonny Bairstow drama during the Ashes and although he was probably dropped prematurely at the World Cup, the time away from the spotlight will do him the world of good.

His glovework has hit new heights over the past 12 months after the occasional dicey moment in his first few series in the role and as long as he doesn’t get too sweep happy, his batting at seven is the ideal steady hand following a pair of strokemakers in Travis Head and Mitchell Marsh.

TV viewers will see more highlights from the West Indies glory days than the current team provides: It’s going to be a tough sell trying to get fans enthused about the Windies heading back to these shores for the second year in a row with a 2-0 shellacking on the cards again. 

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The ICC can’t abandon the smaller nations when it comes to Test cricket but it’s a sad state of affairs when you consider the once-mighty Windies have beaten Australia just once in their 28 meetings, home and away, with four draws, this century.

Lyon to snare 500th wicket at MCG: It won’t have the theatre of Shane Warne getting his 700th on his home ground against England in his farewell appearance in Melbourne but Nathan Lyon is set to become the eighth player in Test history to reach 500 wickets. He will probably struggle to notch the milestone at Optus Stadium in the series opener but don’t count it out either after he bagged eight there last summer against the West Indies.

Green will get the jump on Marsh: Whether it’s through a dip in form or his injury woes flaring up again, Cameron Green will get the all-rounder’s role back from Mitchell Marsh before the summer is out.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 08: Cameron Green of Australia celebrates the wicket of Ollie Pope of England during day one of the First Test Match in the Ashes series between Australia and England at The Gabba on December 08, 2021 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Matt Roberts - CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

Cameron Green. (Photo by Matt Roberts – CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

It should be a cash-in campaign for Marsh against bowling attacks which should have to toil hard to get through the top order and he may have a relatively light workload with the ball as the fifth option. 

But he has been consistently inconsistent in red-ball cricket over the course of his career and the selectors will be looking to bring Green back at the first chance they get.

Black Caps will put up an almighty fight: It’s almost a national sport for Australians to under-rate New Zealand in sporting contests (the exception to this rule is Wallabies vs All Blacks encounters). 

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There has been way too long a gap between tours across the Tasman with Australia last heading there in 2016. 

The Black Caps love to be written off – they did upset England in a thriller earlier this year to square that series 1-1 and you can be sure Kane Williamson will be hard to remove and Neil Wagner will be firing in short balls to upset the Aussies. 

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