Image courtesy of: Zimbio
Usman Khawaja is set to play his first Test since August 2013 after he and Joe Burns were included in Australia’s squad for the upcoming series against New Zealand.
Burns is likely to be David Warner’s new opening partner as Chris Rogers retired from international cricket after the Ashes series against England. Khawaja meanwhile is set to come in at number three should captain Steven Smith move down to four.
“He’s [Burns] got more runs than the other contenders,” national selector Rod Marsh told reporters in Adelaide. “He averages more than the other contenders. He got two fifties in his last Test match, extremely unlucky not to be going to the West Indies and England, he was chosen to go to Bangladesh, would have opened the batting there. Any other explanation?”
Cameron Bancroft was supposed to be included in the side, but did not make the cut as Marsh believes he will benefit from playing more Sheffield Shield cricket.
“He’s a good young player, he’s as tough as nails, and we all think he has got what it takes to play Test cricket,” Marsh said. “But we think he’s a few runs shy at the moment; he’s a few hundreds shy. And we’d like to pick him when he’s in sparkling form and getting first-class hundreds, that is when we’d really like to pick a young player.
“What we tried to do was pick the best side. We know New Zealand are going to be very, very worthy opponents. In fact they’re a damn good side. And it’s very important for Steve Smith and David Warner, the two leaders of our group, it’s very important they get off to a good start.
“And I don’t personally think it was time for just wild experimentation. I think we had to be very measured in what we did with this team to allow the new captain the best chance of getting off [to a good start]. It’s all very well saying `pick youth and go with youth all the time’ but you have got to pick the best side.”
Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Peter Siddle will make up the pace attack, while Nathan Lyon will remain the lone spinner.
“We are pleased with how our bowling unit is going at the moment,” Marsh said. “Both Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood had fantastic performances in the Matador Cup and Mitchell Johnson looks ready to fire after a decent break. Off the back of a great bowling performance in the last Test Peter Siddle earns his selection with Nathan Lyon, a proven performer in the side rounding out our attack.”
Marsh also has high hopes for all-rounder Mitchell Marsh and is banking on the 24-year-old to come good with the bat after he only made 48 runs at an average of 12 during the Ashes.
“Harking back to England, the thing we were most worried about was his bowling, but now because he hasn’t made many runs recently I think everyone is worried about his batting,” he said. “I’ve got faith in him. He’s a good young bloke, with a good technique and a desire to play well for Australia.
“He played beautifully [on debut last year] and he backed it up in the second innings in conditions that were difficult and conditions he wasn’t used to. The Gabba and Perth pitches should suit his batting. That’s where he was brought up in Perth with a bit of bounce, and he should be well suited to those two pitches.”
Australia Test squad: David Warner, Joe Burns, Usman Khawaja, Steven Smith (capt), Adam Voges, Mitchell Marsh, Peter Nevill (wk), Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc, Peter Siddle, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood