Nic Maddinson is one of three batsmen who will make his Test debut for Australia in Adelaide © Getty Images
Matt Renshaw, Peter Handscomb and Nic Maddinson have been thrust into the firing line as debut batsmen for an embattled Australia amid a drastically changed squad for the third Test against South Africa.
The interim selection chairman Trevor Hohns also included Chadd Sayers as an Adelaide Oval specialist for the day/night match alongside Jackson Bird, with Matthew Wade to retake the gloves in a Test for the first time since the 2013 tour of India.
Six changes from one Test squad to another is a figure not seen in Australian cricket history since 1984, when the same number was made between back-to-back Test series against the fearsome West Indies team that ultimately broke Kim Hughes’ captaincy.
Joe Burns, Adam Voges (concussion), Callum Ferguson, Peter Nevill and Joe Mennie are the casualties of the innings defeat in Hobart that handed the series to South Africa and also triggered the resignation of the selection chairman Rod Marsh. Hohns spared a thought in particular for Ferguson, dropped after his debut Test.
“We were given the charter to revamp the Test match side,” Hohns said. “Sure it may sound harsh but Callum like all of our players except for our bowlers went back to Sheffield Shield cricket, had their opportunity to press their claims for inclusion in this side. Some have, some haven’t and I would suggest that Callum is not discarded by any means. Doesn’t mean the end of the road and we would love Callum to continue to score a lot of runs and belt the door down and demand selection again.”
There may have been another change too if not for a calf injury to the left-arm spinner Steve O’Keefe, who had up until Saturday been favoured to oust the incumbent the spin bowler Nathan Lyon, who has struggled notably for wickets or impact so far this summer.
“Stephen was in serious contention there’s no doubt,” Hohns said. “Nathan as we all know, has over 200 Test wickets, he’s our best off-spinner that we’ve had ever, so it might not be that he’s not taking wickets at the moment, but there’s no indication that he’s bowling poorly. I’m sure if he continues to bowl well as we say in cricket, the wheel always turns.”
Hohns spoke strongly of Renshaw as an occupier of the crease, and of Handscomb and Maddinson as aggressive players in the classic Australian mould. Maddinson’s inclusion was somewhat surprising ahead of his fellow New South Welshman Kurtis Patterson, but he has been highly regarded for some time – even playing for Australia A in England in 2013 on the day Darren Lehmann was appointed coach in place of Mickey Arthur. Maddinson is also close to the captain Steven Smith, who will fancy his chances of extracting the left-hander’s best.
“We see him as a player of enormous potential,” Hohns said of Maddinson. “He is definitely a game breaker and if we can get the best out of him at that level as I think we can, he could be a very, very important player for us down the track.
“Form on the first two [Renshaw and Maddinson] were very important, there was always an area at the top of the order that was in contention. And Peter Handscomb getting 200, he’s been there and thereabouts for a good couple of years now. He’s always been spoken about in our selection meetings, hasn’t quite made the cut recently but now his form can’t be ignored.
“Sometimes you do of course go with your gut, as they say. It’s all very well looking at statistics all the time but sometimes, particularly right now, we were asked to go with some players. And we decided to do that of course, because we obviously need to, go with some players that we thought could play for Australia and hold us in good stead for years to come.”
Bird and Sayers were included primarily as support bowlers for Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood. Both had been chosen for the tour of New Zealand earlier this year. “Chadd’s a very good performer, and a very good performer in Adelaide and that’s why he’s been chosen for this Test match,” Hohns said. “He bowls very well here as we all know, it was only two Sheffield Shield games ago he took 11 or 12 wickets here. Hopefully, if he plays, he can continue to perform well.”
Wade’s inclusion marks a significant change in philosophy for Australia, rewarding his batting ability and fighting demeanour ahead of the neater gloveman in Nevill. Lyon in particular will have to get used to the change. “[Nevill] very unlucky, there’s no doubt about that, but we consider Matthew Wade’s wicketkeeping has improved to the extent that we’ve gone in that direction,” Hohns said. “There’s no secret Matthew Wade’s batting is very, very good, in fact he’s scored hundreds in Test cricket.
“He’s obviously seen as a tough competitor and that is what we’re looking for in our players now, and we want them to get out there now and have a fair crack at this and go forward with that. We don’t expect an immediate turnaround, but we’ve got a bit of faith in these guys now.”
Squad David Warner, Matt Renshaw, Usman Khawaja, Steven Smith, Peter Handscomb, Nic Maddinson, Matthew Wade (wk), Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon, Jackson Bird, Chadd Sayers.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig
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