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Wednesday, 21 November, 2018

Paceman Cummins eager to impress in first home series

David Warner (left) and Steve Smith have steadied the ship in Melbourne
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Steve Smith (captain)
Smith’s dramatic rise is encapsulated by his odds to be Australia’s top runscorer in the last two Ashes series – a 9-1 shot in 2013-14, he obliged as 9-4 favourite in 2015.

Just like his predecessor Michael Clarke, the captaincy has only improved his batting. He averages a shade under 70 as skipper, converting almost exactly half of his fifties into centuries.

Smith showed his stamina and appetite for runs in India in February and March, scoring three centuries including an eight-and-a-half hour unbeaten 178 in Ranchi.

Cameron Bancroft
Trevor Hohns, the chairman of selectors, said the uncapped Bancroft had made an “irresistible” case for a call-up after 442 runs in three Sheffield Shield matches.

That included an unbeaten 228 against South Australia and scores of 76 not out and 86 against a New South Wales team boasting Australia’s likely Test bowling attack.

As a restrained right-hander, Bancroft looks a decent foil for David Warner but he averaged just 28 in the Shield last season and an unbeaten 206 against Kent was his only score of note in 11 Division Two games for Gloucestershire in the summer.

Jackson Bird
An English-style seamer, Bird hasn’t looked out of his depth in Test cricket, although he’s been restricted to eight outings since his debut in December 2012.

He had a five-wicket haul in 2016’s win over New Zealand in Christchurch, including the key scalp of Kane Williamson, bowled for 97 by a ball that seamed into him.

He took ten Pakistan wickets in two Tests last December and looks a solid back-up bowler.

Pat Cummins
At 18, Cummins enjoyed an amazing debut in South Africa, taking seven wickets (including Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis and AB de Villiers) and then hitting the winning runs.

Injuries meant he had to wait until March this year for a second cap and he showed great quality to dismiss four of India’s top seven on a flat Ranchi pitch.

He’ll have more helpful conditions in his long-awaited first home series and his pace and shrewd use of the short ball should trouble batsmen.

Peter Handscomb
Already a reassuring presence in Australia's middle-order after only ten Tests, Handscomb made 54 on his debut against South Africa and centuries in his second and fourth appearances against Pakistan.

He showed his solid defence and mental toughness to save the Test against India in Ranchi, along with Shaun Marsh, and played another gritty innings of 82 in brutally hot conditions in Bangladesh last time out.

Handscomb hasn’t been a prolific scorer in the early rounds of the Sheffield Shield but England’s bowlers may find him a tough nut to crack.

Josh Hazlewood
Hazlewood is not as explosive as Cummins or Mitchell Starc but he is a captain’s dream with the new ball, combining wicket-taking threat with a miserly economy rate.

His 118 Test wickets have cost just 25 runs each and in his first match for NSW after injury he dismissed three Test players – Shaun Marsh, Mitchell Marsh and Hilton Cartwright – in his first four overs.

Hazlewood has also taken 18 wickets in three day/night Tests and England’s batsmen must treat him with respect.

Usman Khawaja
Highly-rated as a youngster, Khawaja was jettisoned after a disappointing Ashes series in England in 2013 but his recent Test record at home is superb.

He averages just under 64 in Australia (and only 27 away from home) and his last ten matches down under have produced four centuries, a couple of 97s and four other fifties, from just 16 innings.

Khawaja’s strokeplay is a joy to watch – in four Big Bash innings in 2015-16 he scored two centuries and two fifties – and he has been in sparkling runscoring form for Queensland this season.

Nathan Lyon
The off-spinner’s consistency and discipline make him a crucial part of the Australia 11, allowing the quick bowlers to be used in short sharp bursts.

Lyon isn’t merely a defensive option, though – he took 8-50 against India in Bangalore and 22 wickets in two Tests in Bangladesh this year.

Those performances were in spin-friendly conditions but he has also bowled beautifully in big series at home, taking 19 wickets in the 2013-14 Ashes and 23 in four Tests against India a year later.

Shaun Marsh
The left-hander has endured a patchy Test career, making only 23 appearances since his debut in 2011 and batting in every position in the top six.

A destructive limited-overs batsman, Marsh often retreats into his shell in Test cricket and his last series in India produced just 151 runs in eight innings at a strike-rate of 29.

A couple of gritty fifties in tough conditions on that tour probably kept the selectors onside but his only previous Ashes experience was making nought and two in Australia’s innings defeat at Trent Bridge in 2015.

Tim Paine
The Tasmanian wicketkeeper made his Test debut against Pakistan at Lord’s in 2010, batting one place higher than fellow debutant Steve Smith.

Injuries and a lack of red-ball cricket have restricted him to only four Test appearances and critics of his surprise recall have pointed out that 47-year-old coach Darren Lehmann scored a first-class century more recently than Paine.

However, the selectors admire his classy keeping and his consistent performances as opening batsman and captain of Hobart Hurricanes in the T20 Big Bash suggest he won’t be cowed by the Ashes atmosphere.

Chadd Sayers
The uncapped South Australia fast bowler took 7-84 in last season’s Sheffield Shield final and his local knowledge makes him a decent option for the second Test in Adelaide.

He reminded Test captain Smith of his quality by pinning him lbw in last month’s Shield game against NSW, finishing with match figures of 6-104.

Mitchell Starc
Mitchell Johnson ripped England to pieces in 2013-14 and Australia supporters are expecting something similar from his fellow left-arm quick. 

Starc has struggled with illness and injury but at 27 he looks primed for a big series, claiming a career-best 8-73 for NSW against South Australia last month before taking two hat-tricks in his next game against Western Australia.

His pace and accuracy make him a dangerous proposition with the new ball, while his ability to swing the pink ball poses an additional threat in the day/night Test in Adelaide.

With nine fifties (including a 99) in 55 Test innings, he is also a useful lower-order batsman.

David Warner
At one time regarded as a Twenty20 specialist, Warner has become one of the great modern Test openers.

His willingness to go for his shots can get him into trouble – it will be interesting to see his approach against Moeen Ali, who dismissed him four times in nine innings in 2015 – but on pacy, true Australia pitches he is a colossal threat.

Warner has scored 14 of his 20 Test centuries in Australia and his last three innings in the home series against Pakistan – 144 off 143 balls, 113 off 95 and 55 off 27 – demonstrate his destructive potential.

Other team news
Middlesbrough-born opener Matt Renshaw lost his place after a run of low scores and all-rounders Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Marsh and Hilton Cartwright have failed to press their claims for another chance at number six.

Wicketkeeper Paine’s surprise recall came at the expense of Matthew Wade and Peter Nevill while injuries to James Pattinson and Nathan Coulter-Nile have depleted the hosts’ fast-bowling resources.


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The chairman of selectors said the uncapped Bancroft had made an “irresistible” case for a call-up after 442 runs in three Sheffield Shield matches
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