Injuries, loss of form, and promotions have put a question mark on Australia’s opening combination for the first Test.
A few weeks ago, David Warner was in line to open with Joe Burns or Will Pucovski.
The debate for the vacant opener spot was to be between Burns and Pucovski, as Warner held his own.
With Warner injured, the debate was put to rest as it gave a chance for both batsmen to open.
Now with Pucovski injured as well, the first two batsmen are uncertain for Australia.
The injuries have given Joe Burns another opportunity to prove himself.
He has been struggling with low scores throughout the last few games, and his opening spot was in doubt due to Pucovski’s rise.
With Pucovski injured, Burns is now likely to hold on to his spot for atleast one more game.
With the recent injuries, Australia have a few options to consider.
Selecting the best choice will be tough, and the options are as follows:
Marcus Harris and Joe Burns:
Joe Burns has not been in great form of late.
If not for the backing of his coaches and captain, Burns may not have retained his place.
With Marcus Harris replacing Joe Burns, the two players opening the batting may seem the likely option.
Marcus Harris made his debut against India two years ago, and went on to play nine Tests.
He has been working on his technique with Chris Rogers, and is doing an excellent domestic cricket job.
He has opened with Joe Burns in the past, and both may benefit from the experience of opening together.
Bringing Back Usman Khawaja or Shaun Marsh:
Usman Khawaja at 33 and Shaun Marsh at 37, may have found it tough to get back to the national side, but with the lack of options, a couple of senior pros may help.
Both batsmen are still around and performing well in the domestic circuit.
Shaun Marsh is having a stellar season, helping him stay in the running while Khawaja has an excellent average in day-night Tests.
The two batsmen remain options as Australia look to find an opening pair for the first Test.
Promotion for Marnus Labuschagne:
Marnus Labuschagne has risen quickly as a number three batsman for Australia.
He is in top form, and the option of him moving up a spot seems very likely.
With a reliable technique, Labuschagne could come in handy at the top.
He has done the job in the past, opened nine times in his domestic career, and offered to do it in the ODIs.
Labuschagne has been seen as Australia’s crisis man, as he walked into the side in place of Smith during an Ashes Test.
He has managed to fill in during vital moments, and with no openers around, Labuschagne may be the best man for the job.
If he does come up with the order, he may do so with Burns unless the selectors are worried about Burns’s form.
In case they decide to look for other options, Labuschagne may partner with Marcus Harris.
Opening with Labuschagne allows Australia to look for other options to improve the flexibility of the side.
With a middle-order slot open, they can bring in Cameron Green at number six.
Doing so will allow Green to play as a batsman and bowl some overs depending on his workload.
Trying Matthew Wade at the top:
This option may result in some changes and can also be a little out-of-the-box.
Matthew Wade’s opening will allow another left-hander at the top and maybe a like-for-like replacement for Warner.
Both batsmen are aggressive upfront, although Wade may not be as consistent as Warner.
Wade has never opened in first-class Cricket but has done the job in limited-overs often.
He is in good form, and the option may be risky but effective.
The option may also allow Cameron Green to play a similar role as he would have if Labuschagne were to open.
Which pacers make the eleven:
Australia has four pacers, who are all world-class.
Selecting between Starc, Cummins, Hazlewood, and Pattinson will be challenging to do.
Unless Australia plays five bowlers, they may have to go for three out of the four pacers, with Lyon holding a spot for himself.
With Pat Cummins as vice-captain, and a handy batsman, and Hazlewood’s record at home, the final spot may be a toss-up between the remaining fast bowlers.
Both Pattinson and Starc are fearsome bowlers, while Starc has a beautiful record at home.
Starc, however, showed a bit of rustiness during the limited-overs leg, which may play on the selector’s mind, though it is a different format.
Selecting between the two bowlers may come down to workload management.
With all four bowlers fit, there may be some rotations, as Pattinson’s workload may require management.
There was rotation among the spots in the previous season, while Cummins held his place from all five Ashes Tests and most of the home summer.
If the same situation occurs, we may see the remaining three pacers fighting for two spots.
In the case of three pacers fighting for two spots, Hazlewood may edge the other pacers out.
He has been in good form and has also been preferred last season, playing most of the Tests, with injury cutting his season short.