Australia’s selectors have sprung huge surprise by naming Cameron Bancroft in a 14-man squad for the first cricket Test of the summer against Pakistan next week, while excluding Usman Khawaja and Marcus Harris.
Bancroft has made the cut despite a series of underwhelming efforts for Western Australia in the Sheffield Shield this season.
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“The improvement in his game is quite noticeable.” – Trevor Hohns on recalled batsman Cameron Bancroft. Bancroft has made 30, 0, 10, 6*, 0, 11, 49 this season in the Sheffield Shield and for Australia A.
— Andrew Wu (@wutube) November 14, 2019
death, taxes, and cameron bancroft getting picked under justin langer
— David Sigston (@dasigston) November 14, 2019
Bancroft has been included alongside Queenslander Joe Burns, who is a frontrunner to open the batting with David Warner after unluckily missing out on selection in the Ashes squad.
“Obviously it’s his home ground and he generally performs pretty well there,” Chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns told reporters in Perth.
“Joe in the past years when he has been given the opportunity to play for Australia, his record is not too bad.
“He was desperately unlucky not to be included in that Ashes squad. But we consider now is the right time for him to come back, try to form a good partnership at the top with David Warner.
“They know each other well, they’re good friends and left and right-handed (opening combination) is pretty useful in our view.”
Travis Head was also names and will likely bat in the middle order after his main competitor Will Pucovski asked not to be picked because of mental health issues.
However, Bancroft — who has played all 10 of his Tests as an opener — may also be considered for the middle order after top-scoring for Australia A in the recently completed warm-up match against Pakistan in Perth.
Bancroft only played that game because he was called up as a late replacement for Victorian batsman Nic Maddinson, who pulled out of the clash for mental health reasons. Batting at No. 6, the 26-year-old scored 49 out of a dismal first innings total of 122, making him the only player for the hosts to reach 20.
Bancroft returned to the Australian side in the Ashes after serving his nine-month suspension for ball tampering but was dropped after two Tests.
He’s had a rough time of it in Shield cricket this season, scoring just 57 runs in six innings at an average of 11.4 with a top score of 30.
Numbers like those would make his inclusion in the starting XI even more of a surprise.
Burns hasn’t set the world on fire for Queensland this summer but has still posted two half centuries in his three Shield outings. He failed against Pakistan for Australia A, getting bowled for a golden duck in the first innings and making just 11 in the second, but he’s a proven performer in the baggy green.
The right-hander scored 180 in his last Test against Sri Lanka in Canberra and boasts four centuries and four fifties from 16 Tests, averaging 40.1.
Khawaja was dropped ahead of the fourth Ashes Test after a mediocre start to the series where he was unable to convert starts into big scores and he’s going to have to wait a little while longer to return to the national team.
Khawaja hasn’t put up a strong case for Test selection, scoring 59 runs in five innings for Queensland before stumbling again with Australia A. He scored six in the first innings against Pakistan and although he was unbeaten on 37 when the match ended, he hasn’t knocked the door down with runs as selectors would have hoped.
Harris replaced Bancroft at the top of the order during the Ashes but also failed to stamp his authority in that position. He couldn’t reach 20 in any of his six innings in England and averages only 24.06 from nine Tests after making his debut against India last summer.
Michael Neser has edged out Peter Siddle for the extra fast bowling spot alongside the usual suspects Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and James Pattinson.
Marnus Labuschagne will play after his stellar Ashes campaign and Matthew Wade was a certainty to be included after solid Shield form backed up his hundred in the final Test against England at The Oval.
AUSTRALIA TEST SQUAD
Tim Paine (c), Cameron Bancroft, Joe Burns, Pat Cummins (vc), Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head (vc), Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Steven Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner
Originally published as Aussie selectors spring huge surprise