With the Ashes over and the domestic cricket season in full swing, we decided to take a look at what Australia’s XI could look like for the first Test against Pakistan at the Gabba on November 21.
1. David Warner
After a very disappointing Ashes series, you would be forgiven for thinking that David Warner’s time in the Test team was over. The 32-year-old scored just 95 in his 10 innings, leaving a paltry average of 9.5, and was thoroughly outclassed by the English attack, specifically Stuart Broad.
However, Warner’s form in Australia is too good to ignore, with 15 centuries to his name and an average of 59.65 across 38 Test matches. The New South Welshman is also buoyed by a strong record against Pakistan, with three hundreds and an average of 66.11 from just five Tests.
The Pakistan Test series could be Warner’s last opportunity to prove his worth and the pressure will be on for him to perform.
2. Cameron Bancroft
Bancroft suffered similar struggles to Warner during the Ashes Series, scoring just 44 runs in the first two Tests before being dropped for Marcus Harris. Fortunately for Bancroft, Harris’ form wasn’t much better, tallying just 58 runs at an average of 9.66.
Bancroft gets the nod ahead of Harris here due his decent start to the Marsh One Day Cup, but Sheffield Shield form will play the biggest role in deciding who will partner Warner, with Joe Burns and Matthew Renshaw also waiting in the wings.
Unlike Warner, Bancroft has time on his side and a strong domestic season with Western Australia could tilt the odds heavily in his favour.
3. Marnus Labuschagne
Labuschagne’s class and temperament at the top of the order was crucial to Australia’s successful Ashes campaign. The South African-born right-hander formed an important third-wicket partnership alongside Steve Smith, saving Australia’s innings on multiple occasions throughout the Ashes series.
The 25-year-old averaged 50.43 and scored 353 runs in his seven innings against England and looked at home at first-drop. His part-time leg-spin was also a handy weapon for Tim Paine and with the Aussies expected to continue with one full-time spinner, Labuschagne could play an important role this Summer.
If Labuschagne backs up his Ashes form with a strong Shield season he will be one of the first players on Justin Langer’s team sheet for the first Test.
4. Steve Smith
Only a miracle could keep the best batsman in Test cricket out of the Australian XI this Summer. The former captain’s Ashes series was record-breaking, becoming the first man to score 500+ runs in three consecutive Ashes series’ and finishing fifth all-time for most runs scored in a single Ashes series, just to name a few.
Smith has not missed a beat since his return from suspension, with a concussion his only obstacle. The 30-year-old’s next obstacle is Pakistan, whom he has faced seven times, scoring 715 runs with a high score of 165*.
Smith will be representing Australia on home soil for the first time since his suspension and after his Ashes heroics, there is no doubt he will be welcomed with open arms and continue his record-breaking form.
5. Travis Head
Despite being named as co-vice captain heading into the Ashes series, Travis Head was dropped for the final Test, making way for all-rounder Mitchell Marsh. The South Australian’s Ashes series did leave a lot to be desired, passing 50 just once in eight innings, but his 515 runs in 2019 was one of the highest in the Australian squad.
Head began his Test career against Pakistan, scoring 122 runs in four innings with a high score of 72 and has the potential to be a strong middle-order batsman. Given the 25-year-olds promotion to vice-captain, he is clearly considered as a future leader of the squad and will be given every opportunity this summer to stake his claim.
There is plenty of pressure for spots in the middle order, with Kurtis Patterson and Mitchell Marsh already given chances by Justin Langer. Head’s Shield form for SA will decide if he can regain his spot in the XI.
6. Matthew Wade
Wade had a blistering 2018/19 Sheffield Shield season, scoring a mammoth 1021 runs at 60.05 to earn a recall to the Australian team as a specialist batsman, and made the most of his opportunity.
The former Victorian representative scored two centuries during the Ashes, with 110 in the first Test and 117 in the fifth, and finished with 337 runs for the entire series. Wade has struggled in the past against Pakistan, averaging just 15.33, but his new found confidence and ability as a specialist batsman will hold him in good stead heading into the first Test.
The Tasmanian will be hoping he can emulate his sizzling Shield form this season and seal his position in the lineup for the duration of the Summer.
7. Tim Paine
It is unknown how long Tim Paine will remain as captain of the Test team. There is no doubt he has performed bravely since taking the helm during a trying period, but his efforts with the bat and behind the stumps have drawn criticism.
Paine finished the 2019 Ashes series with an average of just 20, scoring 180 runs from his 10 innings, raising questions about his usefulness to the Australian side. With Matthew Wade performing well with the bat and Alex Carey already representing Australia in limited-overs matches, Paine’s tenure as wicketkeeper is under threat.
The dynamic between Paine and Wade in the Tasmanian team will be interesting to watch and if Paine fails to make an impact, he could be on the outer.
8. Pat Cummins
The number one ranked Test bowler and current vice-captain had a huge Ashes series and loves playing on Australian soil. Cummins’ 29 scalps put him 36th on the all-time Ashes leaderboard for wickets in a series and his 211 overs were the most he’s ever bowled in a series.
The paceman has a terrific record at home, with 51 wickets at an average of 20.88 from his three series in Australia. Cummins has never faced Pakistan but given his efforts against higher-ranked sides, such as England, South Africa and India, he is expected to continue his scintillating form.
Cummins’ health is the main priority this summer so it will be interesting to see how his workload is managed throughout the domestic cricket season and if he plays at all for NSW.
9. Mitchell Starc
Starc was once the lifeblood of the Australian attack, but after playing just one Test during the Ashes series, his future in the side seems up in the air. Starc only featured in the fourth Test at Old Trafford, scoring 54* and 3* while taking four wickets at an average of 31.50.
Despite being dropped for the fifth Ashes Test in favour of Peter Siddle, Starc’s ability to extract pace and bounce out of Australian wickets will be crucial this summer. In his most recent Australian Test, against Sri Lanka in Canberra, Starc picked up his second 10-wicket haul, adding to his already impressive record at home.
Although Starc’s position in the team is in question, his ability to intimidate batsmen is second-to-none and should have a strong role to play this Summer.
10. Nathan Lyon
Australia’s most prolific off-spinner had an impressive Ashes series, picking up 20 wickets and scoring some handy runs at the bottom of the order. Lyon has played 91 Tests since his debut back in 2011, with seven of them coming against Australia’s next opponent Pakistan.
Lyon’s bowling record against the South Asian nation is not as formidable as expected, with an average of 50.35, his worst against any nation. However, with support from a deadly pace attack, Lyon is poised for another strong Australian summer, where he has taken 164 wickets at 33.57.
11. Josh Hazelwood
Hazelwood did not feature in Australia’s Test series against Sri Lanka last summer after a disappointing performance with the ball against India the series before. However, the 28-year-old burst back onto the scene in the Ashes, taking 20 wickets at an impressive average of 21.85.
The Tamworth-product thrived against Pakistan in his last encounter in 2016/17, with his bowling average of 19.60 and economy rate of 2.00 the best of his career since 2015. Hazelwood formed a strong bowling tandem alongside Pat Cummins, and also served well alongside James Pattinson and Mitchell Starc throughout the Ashes series.
If, and it’s a big if, Hazelwood he can remain fully fit this summer, his accurate and miserly bowling will cause plenty of problems for the touring Pakistanis.