It’s fair to say that Cricket Australia’s planned “bat off” for the test spots left vacant by the axing’s of Peter Handscomb, the Marsh brothers and Aaron Finch didn’t quite go as planned. Matt Renshaw, Joe Burns and Will Pucovski were brought into the squad for the upcoming series against Sri Lanka, and were sent to Hobart as part of a Cricket Australia XI to provide the visitors with a warm up game.
Test incumbent Marnus Labuschagne joined the trio in what loomed as a contest to see who handled the Sri Lankan bowlers best to fit into three test batting spots alongside Marcus Harris, Usman Khawaja and Travis Head (who are all certain starters). Unfortunately all four hopefuls failed, and were upstaged by two players (Kurtis Patterson and Jake Doran) who were left out of the test squad.
Burns, Renshaw and Labuschagne all made single digit scores, while Pucovski made a start but couldn’t go on with it, out for 23. When Patterson and Doran combined Australia were 5 for 97, but both scored centuries to leave the CA selection at 316/5. Patterson was particularly impressive, scoring 157 not out, while Doran reached 102 at a strike rate of 79.
The overlooked pair had a point to prove after batting well in the Sheffield Shield this season, with Patterson in particular having a right to be aggrieved after averaging 48, 37, 45 and 53 in the last four domestic seasons, combined with an average of 62 for Australia A and CA XI sides (before yesterday).
Burns was the worst performer with 4, closely followed by Labuschagne and Renshaw on 6 and 7 respectively. Renshaw at least managed to stick around and see off the new ball, facing 35 balls and falling in the 11th over. Patterson and Doran showed that if a batsmen could get themselves in then big scores were attainable – in fact after Doran’s 102 the next highest score was Pucovski.
The much hyped “bat off” has not made the Australian selector’s jobs any easier – the only answer they would have got is that Patterson should have been included in the test squad!