Peter Nevill snubbed from shock Australian line-up for first Test
Chris Barrett, Andrew Wu
Peter Nevill is set to be a shock omission from Australia’s team for the first Ashes Test at the Gabba, with Matt Renshaw also expected to be dropped to accommodate the in-form Cameron Bancroft.
Steve Smith’s squad for the first and second Ashes Tests against England will be announced in Brisbane on Friday morning after weeks of intrigue about its potential make-up.
According to sources there will be no shortage of surprises when selection chairman Trevor Hohns sits down and reads out the line-up, with Tasmania’s Tim Paine on Thursday tipped to be a bombshell pick as wicketkeeper and Shaun Marsh favoured to win the No.6 job. (CBH’s note: WTF)
Nevill had been strongly forecast to return to the side a year after he was dropped for Matthew Wade in the wake of Australia’s disastrous defeat to South Africa in Hobart.
However, while NSW’s Australian contingent have remained in Brisbane after the completion of the Blues’ Sheffield Shield match against Queensland Nevill flew back to Sydney on Thursday with the remainder of the state team.
There was heavy speculation on Thursday that Paine would trump Nevill and state teammate Wade and be handed the gloves at the Gabba when the series starts next Thursday.
Elsewhere, Renshaw’s poor run with the bat in the first three Shield runs was expected to cost him his place at the top of the order, with Bancroft likely to step in and make his Test debut partnering opener and vice-captain David Warner.
As for the vacant No.6 position in the batting order there were suggestions on Thursday that Shaun Marsh was to win a recall after losing his Cricket Australia contract in the winter, with selectors having weighed up whether to pick a specialist batsman or a player who could also provide Smith with a fifth bowling option.
Selectors had met on Wednesday to decide the team but according to CA players were not due to be told of their inclusions until Thursday night.
Paine’s recall would be the most stunning, more than seven years after his last Test against India when he was deputising for Brad Haddin.
His career has since been plagued by a series of injuries which allowed Wade and Nevill to climb above him.
Although Paine was overlooked for Tasmania’s Shield team for the start of the season, national selectors insisted he remained in the frame for the Ashes.
That omission proved a blessing in disguise as he made a half-century for the Cricket Australia XI against England before rounding off his audition with an unbeaten 71 this week against Victoria.
His shock promotion would continue a stunning revival for the 32-year-old, who was close to retiring this year and accepting a role with goods manufacturer Kookaburra.
He returned to the national set-up in February when named as the wicketkeeper in a severely undermanned Australian Twenty20 team.
Marsh, meanwhile, last wore the baggy green in India, where he played key knocks in two of the four Tests but still finished with a series average less than 19.
The 34-year-old’s Test career seemed over when he lost his CA contract but burst back to contention with a stellar start to the home summer, which saw him named player of the JLT Cup.
Although his Shield form, with 236 runs at 39.33, has been steady rather than spectacular, he impressed last round with a fighting 91 in difficult conditions against Australia’s Test attack in round two against NSW at Hurstville Oval.
Australia (likely squad): David Warner, Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith, Peter Handscomb, Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Jackson Bird.