The Second XI

ed cowan

After the announcement of Australia’s home squad for the first two out of three tests against New Zealand, there were plenty of names discussed as unfortunate or unlucky to miss out.

Many expected Cameron Bancroft to be named, whilst Michael Klinger’s recent double century certainly put him in the mix.

As a result of the non-selections I’ve compiled a second XI capable of filling spots in the side in the case of poor form or injury.

  1. E.Cowan
  2. C.Bancroft
  3. M.Klinger
  4. S.Marsh
  5. C.Ferguson
  6. J.Faulkner
  7. M.Wade (+)
  8. S.O’Keefe/A.Agar
  9. J.Pattinson
  10. P.Siddle
  11. J.Bird

Openers:

Anyone from the top four could’ve secured an opening spot, however Klinger and Marsh are probably the most flexible out of the four and thus I’ve gone with Cowan and Bancroft. Cowan has started the domestic season positively, scoring 356 runs at 59.33 in the Matador Cup, and backed that up with a score of 107 n.o. against South Australia in the Sheffield Shield. With 1001 runs at 31.28 in his test match career, Cowan is a more then handy back up for the Australian side.

After impressing on the Australia A tour of India, Bancroft has been discussed vehemently as a replacement for the retired Chris Rogers. His 150 in Chennai, which lasted six hours, highlights a sense of patience akin to Rogers indicating that he could prove an excellent foil to the aggression of David Warner. If the words of Justin Langer are true, Bancroft could well become a fan favourite after stating, “In this day of professionalism and huge amounts of money, he’d play for nothing.” Along with his batting, Bancroft offers another dimension for the side in the bat-pad position – a skill assisted by his previous experience as a wicket-keeper. Steve O’Keefe referred to him as “probably the best bat-pad I’ve ever seen” after a strong showing on the Australia A tour.

Middle Order:

After his double century against Tasmania, Klinger was considered extremely close to selection with Darren Lehmann stating:

Age is not too much of an issue, but when we’re looking at players over a period of time – he averages 38 in first-class cricket, Khawaja averages 40 for example and he’s seven or eight years younger. Sometimes you just have to go with a gut feel. It’s a tough call sometimes. But we certainly looked at him.

Rod Marsh further re-enforced this by explaining:

He’s got to keep making runs. Have you looked at Michael Klinger’s batting average in first-class cricket? It’s not as good as the other boys. Part of our selection policy is if you’ve got two blokes that are absolutely equal you go for the younger bloke, and I think that’s very fair.

As a senior figure this seems to work against Klinger in which the team is experiencing a significant rebuilding phase, however if someone like Adam Voges fails to perform in the first two tests then Klinger may well find himself in the side to offer the experience and wisdom that both can add to the side.

The No.4 spot belongs to Shaun Marsh, probably, in my view, one of the most frustrating modern Australian players. Marsh possesses a slick on-drive assisted by undeniable natural ability that has yet to be fully realised, with Michael Hussey stating in his autobiography:

Shaun […] had been batting in the WACA nets with the state squad since he was sixteen. He wasn’t just surviving, but was playing good shots. He was a natural, and looked like he would be playing for Western Australia and possibly Australia for a good ten or fifteen years.

Unfortunately with a Test average of 33.11 and First Class average of 38.29, Marsh has failed to deliver on his potential, and at thirty-two it’s now or never for the punishing left hander. With the flexibility he offers, solid fielding ability and cricketing pedigree, Marsh will always be an adequate replacement for anyone in the Australian side but such standards of adequacy need to be lifted in order for Marsh to finally cement his spot and deliver on the potential he’s always displayed.

The other batting position could’ve gone to a few names but Callum Ferguson is a name that offers sound execution and reliability. Ferguson has always been on the fringes of Australian selection in any format after his ODI debut in 2009 against New Zealand. At 30 years of age, coupled by 30 ODI caps, Ferguson would definitely add an element of experience to the Australian side. Further, the South Australia has always been one to trouble the scorers throughout his career without converting that score to something significant, with 13 centuries and 35 half-centuries to his name in First Class cricket with a highest score of 164. Whilst this may aggravate certain pundits and commentators alike, it offers a sense of solidarity to the middle order not seen since the days of Michael Hussey, who could always be relied upon to add some sort of score that would allow the side to post a respectable run tally.

All-Rounder:

With an ODI batting average of 42.84 and bowling average of 30.25, it’d be difficult to argue that James Faulkner isn’t a valued member of the Australian ODI side. With Mitchell Marsh and Shane Watson is his way, Faulkner has yet to be provided with the opportunities to convert such form into the Test squad. In his one Test match to date, Faulkner managed to snare match figures of 6/98 and scores of 23 and 22 indicate the potential he possesses in such a format, presenting a strong second option to the young and talented Mitch Marsh.

Wicket-keeper:

With two test-centuries to his name and a first class batting average of 40.11, Matthew Wade seems the only logical replacement to Peter Nevill as the transition from the dominance of Brad Haddin continues. Wade offers a completely different alternative to Nevill in which his extremely aggressive batting nature contrasts with the conservative, defensive display offered by the incumbent wicket-keeper. However, Australian cricket fans have never particularly warmed to the idea of Wade behind the stumps after his horror display keeping to Nathan Lyon during his time in the baggy green which may present a stumbling block in his quest to return to the test side. Personally, I’m a massive fan of the intelligent Ryan Carters, whose ability with the bat was evident in the 2013/14 season in which he was named Sheffield Shield Player of the Year, however due to Wade’s experience and age of only 27 he seems to be the Australian selectors’ second choice preference for the Test side.

Bowlers:

The spin bowling option could easily go to either Steve O’Keefe or Ashton Agar. If you’re looking to reward consistency at First Class level then O’Keefe is the man. If you’re looking to completely rebuild and go with youth and confidence, then Ashton Agar is the one to pick. Stats wise, O’Keefe is far superior, with First Class averages of 28.98 (batting) and 24.94 (bowling) compared to Agar’s 27.05 (batting) and 38.67 (bowling), however the latter offers a sense of excitement and youthful exuberance matched by no-one whose 98 on test debut managed to encapsulate an Australian audience disappointed by the performance of their side. Either way, both spinners offer a solid replacement for the ever-reliable Nathan Lyon and will definitely come into calculations on Australia’s return to the sub-continent.

The Australian pace bowling stocks are very, very, very deep. Any number of bowlers could have been selected in this squad, however the likes of Bird and Pattinson along with Gabba 12th man Siddle, would be solid, steady additions to the Australian side. With all four holding Test caps to their name and respectable bowling averages to go with it not one would be overawed by the occasion and thus offer great cohesion to the Australian bowling attack.


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