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Australia has only two berths to find the answers needed to seal a Border-Gavaskar series victory in the fourth Test over Gabba.
It’s a field where Australia hasn’t lost a Test since 1988, but voters won’t want to leave anything to chance, especially given India has already accomplished one miracle this streak.
These are the Australian selection issues to be resolved for the fourth test, which starts on Friday.
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Just one test after rolling out what many think is the best opening pair, Australia faces the possibility, albeit an unlikely one, of none of the existing openers available for the series finale.
Will Pucovski nervously waits for scans for his shoulder, which he injured in the field on day five of the third Test, while David Warner was well below 100 percent fit at the SCG.
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Given the tight turnaround, selectors will once again be forced to choose between an undersized Warner who appears to be struggling to run at full speed, or change top order again.
Selectors went for the first in Sydney, where Warner made 5 and 13 and started shivering and bumping after taking off for a quick run in his first innings.
As worrisome as that was, Allan Border believes selectors will choose Warner again unless he’s exacerbated his groin injury.
He has a pretty resilient nature, Border said foxsports.com.au. I think it’s good to go and be better for the flight now that he knows what to look for, as far as his limitations are concerned.
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I think hell is better for the hit he hasn’t played much cricket. So I would pick him unless he got worse than he progressed (with his injury).
Brendon Julian agrees, narrating foxsports.com.au that Warner seemed to move better at the SCG as the game progressed.
I would risk him, he said. I felt in the field that he was running around okay. He seemed a bit limited in the first innings, but I think hell is better for the run, to be honest. I think it’s a bit of fatigue rather than an injury, so I’m willing to risk it.
You need someone who has that experience, especially with the Gabba where it will be bouncy, so I’m willing to throw him again.
As for Pucovski, Border said Marcus Harris is the first choice to replace a 22-year-old if hes been excluded from the fourth Test.
Harris has averaged 118.33 in the Sheffield Shield this season, while also being Australia’s top scorer the last time India toured these coasts (258 runs at 36.85).
Another option could be to bring Matthew Wade back to the top of the rankings, where he hit in the first two Tests, and fill a spot in Australia’s middle class instead.
That’s one option Julian is happy to allow for extra skittles support, as Australia’s offense will likely be fatigued from 131 over fourth innings followed by just a three-day break.
Marcus Harris would be the logical choice, but I have to say, given the bowlers bowling so much in the final game of the Test on the last day, I think they might need some support, Julian said.
So I think you can put Wade at the top of the order and come in with Moises Henriques or a Sean Abbott. I know they’ll turn around and leave, there’s another all-rounder (Cameron Green) in there, but I’m pretty happy with Moises hitting number 5 and opening Wade.
I know it’s likely to cram it around … but considering it’s a quick turnaround I don’t know how they stopped it’s going to be a long test game … bowlers will have to bowl quite a bit, they’ll want to cast short spells . If they lose the throw, they probably lose, and they throw first, that gets tiring.
So I don’t mind having another all-rounder like Moises Henriques to support the bowlers, along with Cameron Green, three dips and a spinner.
The last possibility is Joe Burns’ unlikely and hasty recall. Burns has been released from the Test squad after a horrendous run of form, but has only played BBL games in Queensland, where the final Test will be played. Given his battle against the red ball, it seems unlikely that he will be recalled, while his selection also depends on Cricket Australia’s biosafety protocols. Its worth mentioning, however, that he does a 78 average at his Gabba home track after three Tests.
MATTHEW WADE VERSUS TRAVIS HEAD
If both openers are fit, Wade will likely keep his spot at number 5 this time, but the test could realistically be his last if he doesn’t perform.
It is the last test of the series and Australia may not play in the five-day format for some time due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Wade will turn 34 at the end of the year, indicating that he probably isn’t a long-term option for Australia, while 27-year-old Travis Head is.
Head, a player who some see as a future captain of Australia, was dropped for the third Test despite a Test average of 39.75. Too many times he’s been guilty of throwing away his wicket after a strong start, but he’ll never be far from the selector’s mind with his undeniable talent and bright future.
Border said Wade will keep his spot for Test Four, but once the Sheffield Shield resumes next month he will come under heavy pressure as selectors look to the future.
Just a few of his layoffs in the past few Test matches hes not doing himself any service, said Wade’s Border, who hasn’t made a Test 50 in his past 12 innings.
You link that to the really good delivery he had in the second innings (in Sydney) and suddenly you are under the pump again.
Id say hell play (in Brisbane) and then after this Test series they will start thinking about long term.
Julian said Wade deserves the chance to close the series.
I wouldn’t change the side now to deal with one test. I wouldn’t bring in someone new who hasn’t played any of the test matches. I’m glad he has another chance, he said.
Whether he’ll play the next series to play Australia is a different story, but I’m pretty glad he’s got another crack, because I actually think he looks good. His defense looks pretty solid, he’s just making really bad shot choices … just bad decisions.
So I’m willing to give him another chance at Gabba considering his last Test and he played all three.
CHOOSE OR STICK WITH STARC?
Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon choose themselves, but Mitchell Starc is now in a different category from the trio.
Australia took only five wickets in 131 overs in Indias’ second innings and none came from Starc.
The 30-year-old is still looking forward to his form in this series after finishing the third Test with 0-66 from 22 overs in the second innings and 1-61 in the first.
He was slower by mid-day five, averaging 140.77 mph, his sixth lowest in a home test, according to data from CricViz.
Its accuracy is also wrong. After the morning session, CricViz data also showed that 29 percent of his deliveries in the innings went down the leg, the second-highest figure he ever produced.
Starc now has nine wickets at 31.66 for the series compared to Hazlewoods 11 at 6pm and Cummins 15 at 6.13pm.
Border said he would give Starc one more chance, who has also been lucky with catches dropped off his bowling.
My gut feeling tells you to choose and hold on. He had dropped some catches, which didn’t help the situation or the mood, Border said. Sometimes that gives you a lift and your rhythm is better for some reason. It’s like hitting, nothing like getting away from the first few runs and feeling comfortable at the strike again. I think Mitchell will be the same.
Enjoy the Gabba. There might be a little more movement and bounce for him and he could just hit his belts and be the runaway bestseller we know he can be, so I’m picking and sticking.
So would Julian, who said Starc is a champion who could be too hot to handle at the Gabba.
I don’t think just because there’s one game he didn’t get the wickets, I don’t think he pitched badly, he said. I don’t think India will play the game against him at the Gabba with quite a bouncy course, fairly quickly.
I don’t think they’ll hold it too well against anyone with Starcs skills, so (I have) no problem playing him.
Border added that if there was an underlying problem hindering Starc, he would hand over swing specialist Michael Neser his highly anticipated Test debut.
Alternatively James Pattinson is still with the Test squad and has 81 Test wickets at 26.33, although he bruised his ribs last month to be excluded from the third Test.
Australia possible fourth Test XI: David Warner, Will Pucovski / Marcus Harris, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Matthew Wade, Cameron Green, Tim Paine (c / wk), Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood