Australia squad for Pakistan Test series: Hits and misses

Steve Smith is key to Australia's success
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Australia's bowling is looking as good as ever but their batting can prove to be their Achilles heel. If you take out Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith out of the picture, the rest of the batting looks a bit light.


After looking a cut above Pakistan in the T20Is, it is now time for the real 'test'. Pakistan have included three teenage pace bowlers in their Test squad, namely Shaheen Shah Afridi, Imran Khan and Naseem Shah and all the three have impressed in the practice games. The trioka will pose a serious threat for the Aussie batsmen.

Australia's bowling is looking as good as ever with Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and James Pattinson being the leading bowlers alongside Michael Neser who has been included in the squad. Nathan Lyon remains the nemesis of the opposition as ever.

But, the real trouble for the hosts can be their batting. If you take out Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith out of the picture, the rest of the batsmen did not have a great time during Ashes 2019 and will look to step up.

Amid mental health troubles to multiple players, Australia have announced their Test squad for the Pakistan series which has a few surprise selections. On cue, let's have a look at the hits and misses of the Australian Test squad for the Pakistan series.

HITS

Joe Burns recalled

Joe Burns scored a brilliant 180 in the second Test against Sri Lanka in the beginning of the year. But, with the return of David Warner, he was extremely unlucky to miss the bus for Ashes 2019 and has been recalled.

Despite the selection of Cameron Bancroft in the squad, it is likely that Burns will open the batting along with Warner and would like to make full use of the opportunity. Burns has not made headlines but has done decently in the three Shield innings that he has recently played, with two half-centuries to his name.

Michael Neser in for Peter Siddle

Australia have possibly the best Test bowling attack in the world right now with the likes of Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and James Pattinson capable of sending shivers down the spine of even the best batsmen.

Peter Siddle made it to the Australian Ashes squad and did a decent job, picking up 7 wickets from three Test matches. He did the containing job and was also unfortunate as a lot of catches were dropped off his bowling. However, without much assistance on offer with the Kookaburra ball on Australian pitches, Michael Neser has pipped Peter Siddle in the squad for the Pakistan Test series. Neser has the ability to move the ball both ways.

Labuschagne, Smith, Wade and Head form a solid middle order

The Australian middle order had a few holes during the Ashes with Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith doing the bulk of the scoring. While the two will retain the number 3 and the number 4 spot respectively, Wade, who scored two centuries on the Ashes tour and Travis Head are likely to contribute a lot more in conditions which are more familiar to them.

"Travis Head scored a hundred against a very good New South Wales attack just a few weeks ago and also offers the option of part-time off-spin. Matthew Wade was superb as a specialist batsman through last summer, had a solid Ashes Series with two hundreds and strong start to the current domestic season. We anticipate Matthew and Travis will give us a strong middle order in support of the top four," Trevor Hohns, the national Australian selector, said.


MISSES

An end to Usman Khawaja's Test career?

Usman Khawaja was the leading batsman for Australia in Tests in the absence of David Warner and Steve Smith. With 85 and 141 in two innings of the same Test against Pakistan in UAE that helped Australia save the game, he was hailed as the crisis man. However, a poor series against India followed by dwindling returns in the Ashes have pushed his Test career to the brink.


Just 32 years of age, the left-hander will have to put in solid performances at the Shield level to harbour hopes of a Test return anytime soon.

Cameron Bancroft's shock selection

Cameron Bancroft had a terrible Ashes series and was dropped after the first two games due to the flaws in his technique. He was so low down the pecking order that he was not even part of Australia's practice match against Pakistan, but came into the side at the last minute due to Nick Maddinson's mental health break.

His 49-run knock, the highest score in the line-up in the first innings, helped him somehow squeeze into the squad. However, with the mental space he is in, it is a contentious move. To add to that, Bancroft has not shown any signs of coming back to form in Sheffield Shield cricket as well and has managed only 57 runs from 6 innings at an average of 11.4.

Mental health troubles

Some might feel that Glenn Maxwell's decision to step aside from cricket for an indefinite period due to his mental health issues has opened some sort of pandora's box, not only in Australia but around the world. However, that is hardly true.

In fact, Maxwell has to be lauded for having the guts to come out and speak openly about an issue that still has stigma attached to it in some pockets of the society. That said, following his lead, two more Australian batsmen who were both on the the shortlist to be selected for the Test squad, Nick Maddinson and Will Pucovski, have opted out citing mental health issues.

Australia's Test squad- Tim Paine (c), Cameron Bancroft, Joe Burns, Pat Cummins (vc), Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head (vc), Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner

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