Wicketkeeper Tim Paine was handed a shock recall after a seven-year Test absence on Friday as Australia gambled on sweeping changes for the first two Ashes Tests against England.
Paine, who has not kept for Tasmania in their opening three Sheffield Shield games because of the presence of incumbent Test gloveman Matthew Wade, comes into the 13-man squad along with batsmen Cameron Bancroft and Shaun Marsh.
In a stunning selection, 32-year-old Paine, who was once on the brink of retirement over a serious finger fracture, was preferred to Wade and Peter Nevill for his first Test match since October 2010.
Bancroft, a 24-year-old right-hander, is in line for his Test debut at the expense of opening batsman Matthew Renshaw following a prolific series of scores for Western Australia in this season’s domestic Sheffield Shield competition.
Bancroft, who is also a wicketkeeper, amassed an unbeaten 228 with other scores of 86, 76, 76 and 73 for his state side to force his Test claims, while Renshaw has struggled for runs for Queensland.
Shaun Marsh, 34, makes yet another return to the Australian side and is slated to bat at number six to shore up the batting instead of all-rounders Glenn Maxwell and Hilton Cartwright.
Only five players survive from Australia’s last Test against Bangladesh in September. The first Ashes Test is in Brisbane next week, with the second — a day-night match — in Adelaide from December 2.
The selections were described as “bombshells” in Australian press, while former Test bowler Stuart MacGill lashed the selectors as “morons”.
“Ashes selections…. made by morons mascarading (sic) as mentors. Times (sic) up gents,” he tweeted.
– ‘Unconvincing performances’ –
National selector Trevor Hohns said Paine has been in the sights of selectors despite being overlooked by Tasmania to play behind the stumps this season.
But he also hit out at the “unconvincing performances” of rival players, indicating that selectors felt their options were limited.
“He’s (Paine) our Twenty20 ‘keeper and performs well there, his batting has been pretty good of late and the other side of it… is the unconvincing performances of other contenders,” said Hohns, according to Australian media.
Bancroft’s weight of runs proved an irresistible claim based on form for selectors given Renshaw’s run of low scores for Queensland.
“Cameron has been a player of interest to us for some time now, having been unlucky to miss out on the Test tour to Bangladesh that was cancelled in 2015,” Hohns said.
“He is a very talented and tough cricketer who shows a good temperament for Test cricket.”
For Marsh, it is his eighth recall to the Australian Test team as selectors look for their best six batsmen in deference to the strong England bowling attack.
“Shaun is playing very well at the moment, having scored consistently in the One-Day Cup and first three rounds of the Sheffield Shield competition,” Hohns said.
Paceman Chadd Sayers has been added to the strong fast-bowling line-up in the squad along with Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Jackson Bird to give selectors options.
But Hohns said the selection panel did not feel Renshaw was batting well enough to merit Test selection.
“We still view Matthew as a player of immense talent, but he is out of form at the moment and we don’t feel an Ashes Test match is the best place for him to find form,” he said.
Australia – Steve Smith (capt), David Warner, Cameron Bancroft, Jackson Bird, Pat Cummins, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine, Chadd Sayers, Mitchell Starc.