Cameron Bancroft has earned a surprise call-up to the 14-man Australia squad to play Pakistan in the two-Test series that starts at the Gabba next week.
- Cameron Bancroft, Joe Burns and uncapped Michael Neser have been brought into the squad
- Usman Khawaja misses out after a poor start to the summer
- Australia takes on Pakistan in two Tests, starting at the Gabba on November 21.
Of those players who played for Australia A against Pakistan in Perth this week, Bancroft is joined by Joe Burns, Travis Head and Michael Neser in the squad.
However, Pakistan-born batsman Usman Khawaja misses out after scoring 6 and 37 not out, combined with his indifferent form for Queensland in the Sheffield Shield this season.
Despite recording similar numbers to Khawaja domestically this season, Bancroft’s selection chances were boosted after the West Australian played a lone hand in Australia A’s batting capitulation in the three-day match against the tourists earlier this week, scoring 49 runs as Australia A were bowled out for just 122.
The 26-year-old played in the opening two matches of this year’s Ashes tour, scoring 44 runs across four innings at the top of the order before being replaced by Marcus Harris.
Head selector Trevor Hohns said Bancroft’s inclusion helped cover a variety of positions in the order.
“We thought we needed a spare batsman and he can cover the top order and [play] in the middle order,” Hohns said.
“He’s also played middle order in one-day cricket.”
“He’s worked very hard, the improvement in his game has been noticeable.”
Bancroft has scored just 57 runs with a high score of 30 in this season’s Sheffield Shield for Western Australia.
Queensland batsman Khawaja has scored 59 runs in the Shield this season, with a top score of 32.
Bancroft was something of an afterthought in the Australia A squad, being brought in to the side as an emergency replacement after Nic Maddinson withdrew from the squad for mental health reasons.
That was followed by the withdrawal of Maddinson’s Victorian teammate Will Pucovski the morning after the Australia A match.
Cricket Australia advised on Thursday morning — a few hours before the expected release of the squad — that Pucovski had asked not to be considered for selection “due to matters pertaining to mental wellbeing”.
“It’s a very unfortunate happening,” Hohns said of Pucovski’s withdrawal.
“He was certainly a contender.”
Bancroft is now in the frame to make his Test return at the same venue where he made his debut in 2017. Bancroft scored 82 not out against England at the Gabba — the first of his three Test 50’s so far.
Burns also failed to make an impression in Perth, making a first-innings duck and 11 against Pakistan, but made the squad off the back of his 202 Sheffield Shield runs for Queensland, including two half-centuries in five innings at an average of 40.40 this season, a tally only bettered in the Queensland team by Ashes hero Marnus Labuschagne.
“We feel [Burns] was unlucky to miss the Ashes squad,” Hohns said.
“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.”
Burns scored 180 in his last Test appearance, against Sri Lanka at Canberra’s Manuka Oval in February this year, the latest of four Test centuries in 16 matches.
Queensland bowler Michael Neser’s impressive Shield form has also been rewarded, with the 29-year-old added to a five-man pace stable for this series.
Head also scored a century in that Test, notching 161 and 59 not out in his two innings, and despite a disappointing Ashes tour in which he made just one half-century in four Tests, Head’s Shield form of 201 runs in five innings, including a top score of 109, got him over the line.
Neser has taken 15 wickets this Shield season at 20.20, and took an economical 2-57 at Perth stadium for Australia A in Pakistan’s sole batting innings.
He will face a tough ask to break into Australia’s formidable bowling attack though, with Test stalwarts Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc expected to make up the three-pronged pace attack alongside Nathan Lyon.
“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,” Hohns said.
“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.”
Australia Test squad: David Warner, Joe Burns, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Cameron Bancroft, Travis Head, Matthew Wade, Tim Paine (c,wk), Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Starc, James Pattinson, Michael Neser.