Australia could give debuts to as many as four players as they look to rebuild their Test team after the Newlands ball-tampering scandal.
This would be the most debuts in a single match for the past four decades.
Aaron Finch and Travis Head are assured inclusion in the team as they replace the suspended Steve Smith and David Warner at the top of the order, while South-African born Marnus Labuschagne could earn his Australian debut as the replacement for the also-suspended Cameron Bancroft. These selections would leave no space in the squad for Glenn Maxwell and Peter Handscomb, who are both consistent performers in first-class cricket.
Labuschagne has been accelerated onto the international stage following some glittering performances during the recent Australia A team tour. He got his opportunity to shine at the expense of the unlucky Matt Renshaw, who suffered a concussion after being struck on the helmet while fielding at short leg, after having just recovered from a hamstring issue that sidelined him for the recently concluded Australia A tour of India. Labuschagne’s inclusion would force a reshuffle of the Aussie batting order that could result in an interesting left-right mix right through the order right down to the tail.
The competition for places in the side has been headline news thanks to input and comments from former and current Australian players.
‘I think the message is always pretty simple. You want to go out and perform and win games of cricket for Australia,’ said Head. ‘I know from the one-day team and that’s traditionally how it’s always been for the Australian cricket team. It’s always tough for spots and those guys are unlucky to miss out and have been in really good form, but in the tour match we were 500-4. The guys are in form, it’s always tough to get into the Australian cricket team and the fight for spots is always up.’
Michael Neser, who impressed as a foil to Mitchell Starc in the Australia A team tour – will be keen to earn his first cap but he will be competing with the recalled Peter Siddle for inclusion in the side as the second pace bowling option in the team. Siddle, Starc and the ever-dangerous off-spinner Nathan Lyon are the only surviving members of the Australia Test team that lost 2-0 the last time they played Pakistan in the UAE.
Tim Paine (c)
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