With the first test against India starting in Adelaide on Thursday Australia still doesn’t know who their best 6 batsmen are. While the lower order are locked in, there are still seven batsmen competing for the spots – and even coach Justin Langer seems unsure about who to leave out.
While captain and wicketkeeper Tim Paine will bat at seven, followed by the superstar bowling quartet of Mitch Starc, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazelwood and Nathan Lyon, only Usman Khawaja and Shaun Marsh are (generally) undisputed locks in the batting – and even then their places are unclear. Aaron Finch will also play if fit, but he copped a nasty finger injury in the nets against Starc.
Langer announced yesterday that the batting line-up was largely settled, with the final spot coming down to a choice between potential debutante Marcus Harris and Peter Handscomb. This has been taken as a sign that Mitch Marsh will play, despite only performing once in his last 8 innings and failing in the series against Pakistan (where his brother was also poor, but since then Shaun has scored a century for the one day team and plundered runs in the Sheffield Shield).
The choice between Harris and Handscomb will affect where the other players will bat, as Harris would open while Handscomb would be further down the order. If Harris plays he will partner Finch as an opener, with Khawaja coming in at 3 and Shaun Marsh at 4 before Travis Head and Mitch March at five and six. Handscomb, however, would come in at four or five and push everyone else forward a spot.
The younger Marsh and Travis Head will both be under pressure in the first test, with their positions in the team under pressure. A big score in the Shield by any of a number of hopefuls could see either leave the team if they don’t perform in Adelaide. Harris or Handscomb would be more likely to be given a grace period to find their feet in test cricket.
One thing is sure: looking at Australia’s batsmen, we had better hope the bowlers are primed for a big series!