In between Swann’s comments about ODIs yesterday and the thrilling finish to the Mumbai Test I have neglected to look carefully at the Australian squad for the first Test against New Zealand. There are only 12 in the squad this year, instead of the 17 they famously picked before Brisbane last year, so it gives a pretty clear indication of the likely XI.
David Warner will open, as I predicted, though Eddie Cowan made 145 for Australia A. It’s an interesting selection in many respects. Warner has some international experience in the limited overs realm, but he has played just ten first class matches. (He has played over a hundred domestic T20 matches.) He does average almost 60 in those matches however. Cowan, by contrast, averages 37 in over fifty first class matches, but he has passed fifty in twenty of them. He is also in very good form recently, as his score for the ‘A’ side shows. In essence, Cricket Australia have gone for a basher. It’s not surprising given the traditional ethos of the side, but one might think they would know that T20 stars are not always the best Test batsmen. Last winter they got to watch Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott score a combined 1211 runs at an average of 110, but with a strike rate barely above fifty. Philip Hughes looks like he might be the next to get the axe though, so Cowan may yet get his chance.
It’s possible that my predicted XI will be off by one. Ben Cutting was also included in the squad and could come in for Peter Siddle. Siddle might have been axed for Jo’burg if Harris hadn’t been injured, so it would not come as a shock if Cricket Australia wanted to look at someone else before India arrive. It’s also possible that they will choose all four seamers and Lyon will miss out. I’d be a bit surprised if Siddle were dropped. Whilst he looks a long way off from the bowler who took a hat-trick on the first day of the Ashes last year, to drop him would be to select an pace attack with precisely zero Test caps. (And a spinner with only five.)
The most notable omissions to the squad were probably Trent Copeland and Matthew Wade. Copeland played in the series in Sri Lanka and whilst he did not look like a world beater he did not do anything specific to cost him his place in the side. Wade, meanwhile, scored 53 against the New Zealanders for the ‘A’ side. With Haddin under some pressure it might have been worth to give Wade a call up. He at least looks like he knows better than to try to cut a ball on the stumps with the score 18-5. I’m not surprised that Australia left them both out, but with a weak opponent touring it is a good time to gamble.
I don’t think too much should really be read into the squad though; it’s an injury hit side and they are only playing New Zealand. Selecting Warner over Cowen and leaving out Copleland are sure to raise questions however. Australia will almost certainly win regardless of the XI they select so I think the selectors could have been a bit bolder, but this is a decent start.