Cameron Bancroft, Joe Burns, Travis Head and Michael Neser have been named in Australia's 14-man squad for the upcoming two-Test series against Pakistan. Marcus Harris, Usman Khawaja and Peter Siddle, who featured in the 17-man Ashes squad earlier this year, have been left out.
Bancroft wasn't even in the original squad for Australia A's practice game against Pakistan but found himself rushed in owing to Nic Maddinson's mental health break.Batting at No. 6, Bancroft made a gutsy 49 off 155 balls in Australia A's first innings effort of 122 all out, and has been picked in the Test squad for a middle-order spot. He will likely be competing for the No. 5 spot with Travis Head, Australia's co Test vice-captain who was dropped ahead of the final Ashes Test at the Oval. Head, though, got back into contention with a superlative 109 for South Australia against a strong New South Wales bowling attack last week.
Bancroft himself only played the first two Ashes Tests in England. His returns this season in the Sheffield Shield have been modest -- 57 runs in six innings at an average of 11.4 and a top score of 30 -- but finds himself in the squad owing to well-timed runs and unavailability of certain players.
Matthew Wade, with two Ashes Test hundreds to his name last series, continues to populate the middle order. He has hit three half-centuries in six Shield innings this season.
"Travis Head scored a hundred against a very good New South Wales attack just a few weeks ago and also offers the option of part-time off-spin," Trevor Hohns, the national selector, said. "Matthew Wade was superb as a specialist batsman through last summer, had a solid Ashes Series with two hundreds and strong start to the current domestic season.
"We anticipate Matthew and Travis will give us a strong middle order in support of the top four. Cameron Bancroft is someone who has the ingredients of what we believe makes a good Test cricketer and rounds out our batting group in the squad," Hohns added.
Will Pucovski, who was in contention for a middle order spot too, wasn't considered after he opted out of Test reckoning on grounds of mental health well-being. Peter Handscomb, with first-class scores of 30, 12, 19, 11 and 52 for Victoria this season, continues to miss out. Mitchell Marsh continues to recover from his fractured hand.Joe Burns had narrowly missed the Ashes berth earlier this year but is likely to partner David Warner at the top against Pakistan. He has hit two half-centuries in three innings this Shield season but failed with scores of 0 and 11 in the practice match against Pakistan in Perth. Marcus Harris, in contrast, has a Shield hundred this season but it came on one of the flatter tracks at the Junction Oval. He was the replacement for Bancroft in the last three Ashes Tests to failed to make his chances count.
"David Warner and Steven Smith are in magical touch. We also welcome Joe Burns into the squad who we feel was unlucky to miss the Ashes squad. Joe's record speaks for itself, he has Test hundreds on the board and has combined very well with David (Warner) in the past. We also like the feel of a right-hand, left-hand combination at the top of the order. Marnus' performances in England and at the start of this season demanded his selection," said Hohns.
Neser has been picked ahead of Siddle, with the fast bowling attack also featuring Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, James Pattinson and Mitchell Starc. Nathan Lyon is the lone specialist spinner whereas Tim Paine continues to lead the side.
"We are blessed to have four of the best fast bowlers in the world challenging each other for spots and most importantly playing as a group. Cummins, Starc, Hazelwood and Pattinson are daunting pace prospects for any opposition, particularly at home. Michael Neser adds to that group with his ability move the ball both ways, giving the team another bowling option depending on the conditions," Hohns added.
Australia squad: Tim Paine (c), Cameron Bancroft, Joe Burns, Pat Cummins (vc), Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head (vc), Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner