Australia have confirmed their selection bombshell by sensationally recalling Tim Paine following a seven-year absence from Test cricket, with the wicketkeeper set to take the gloves for the Magellan Ashes.
Paine, who has not kept for Tasmania in their opening three JLT Sheffield Shield rounds due to the presence of incumbent Test gloveman Matthew Wade, will dust off his Baggy Green after remarkably leapfrogging both Wade and his predecessor Peter Nevill.
The 32-year-old’s shock inclusion comes as opener Cameron Bancroft was also named in the 13-man squad for the first two matches of the series while veteran batsman Shaun Marsh‘s strong start to the domestic season earned him a recall to the Test team.
The bowling stocks were bolstered by the inclusion of South Australia’s Chadd Sayers, who could be in line for a debut in the day-night affair on his home turf at the Adelaide Oval for the second Test.
Bancroft, 24, is set open the batting alongside vice-captain David Warner and become Australia’s 451st Test player.
Australia Squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscomb, Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine (wk), Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood, Jackson Bird, Chadd Sayers.
National Selector Trevor Hohns said Bancroft had earnt his call-up to the Test side.
“Cameron has been a player of interest to us for some time now, having been unlucky to miss out on the Test tour to Bangladesh that was cancelled in 2015.
“He is a very talented and tough cricketer who shows a good temperament for Test cricket.
“He has thoroughly earned and deserves his call-up following some outstanding performances in the early rounds of the JLT Sheffield Shield competition this season.”
Queenslander Matthew Renshaw has been axed following a lean start to the Shield season, while leading contenders for the No.6 spot Glenn Maxwell and Hilton Cartwright – both of whom played in Australia’s most recent Test against Bangladesh in September – were overlooked in favour of Marsh.
Bancroft earns his call-up after scoring a pair of half-centuries against Australia’s Test attack in the game against NSW last week and a marathon unbeaten 228 against South Australia this week.
Renshaw looked to be in the box seat to partner Warner for Thursday’s first Test at the Gabba despite managing just 70 runs in six hits for Queensland so far this Shield season.
Hohns said selectors were not prepared to take an out-of-form Renshaw into the Ashes cauldron.
“We still view Matthew as a player of immense talent, but he is out of form at the moment and we don’t feel an Ashes Test match is the best place for him to find form,” Hohns said.
“We would like him to go back to first-class cricket and push his name forward with the selection panel through big runs.”
While Renshaw’s form faltered, Bancroft had mounted an overwhelming case for inclusion.
The Western Australian had hopes of a Test debut crushed in 2015 after he was named in Australia’s squad to tour Bangladesh before that trip was postponed, and has since broadened his horizons with two stints playing county cricket for Gloucestershire all the while impressing for the Warriors with five tons in the two most recently completed Shield seasons.
Marsh, meanwhile, was overlooked for Australia’s Qantas Tour of Bangladesh and looked to be well behind the likes of Maxwell and Cartwright in the Test reckoning.
But the 34-year-old made a stunning start to the season in the JLT One-Day Cup and passed 50 in each of WA’s three Shield games ahead of the Ashes.
“Shaun is playing very well at the moment, having scored consistently in the JLT One-Day Cup and first three rounds of the JLT Sheffield Shield competition,” said Hohns.
“He is a versatile player who can slot in anywhere in the batting order and will add valuable experience to the batting line-up.”
Marsh has 236 runs at 39.33 this season, while Maxwell has 200 at an even 40. Cartwright’s numbers, impacted by a pair in the high-pressure game against NSW, are 152 runs at 25.33. Callum Ferguson, who played one Test last summer against South Africa in Hobart, has 353 runs at 68.60, but was overlooked, as was Daniel Hughes who averages 70.33 this summer with 211 runs in three matches after getting a start in the NSW team.
Paine played four Tests in 2010 standing in for Brad Haddin (now the Australian team’s fielding coach) but a succession of finger injuries, which have required several bouts of surgery, derailed his international career and put him on the brink of retirement. His seven-year absence from the Test arena will be the equal longest in Australia’s history.
Since putting his injury troubles behind him and rediscovering his touch, Paine has been selected as Australia’s keeper for recent T20 International series against Sri Lanka at home last summer and away in India last month.
He also took the gloves as captain of the Cricket Australia XI in a tour match against England last week, scoring a half-century against England’s likely first Test attack of James Anderson, Chris Woakes and Craig Overton. Paine also knows Stuart Broad well from their time together at the Hobart Hurricanes.
And recalled to Tasmania’s Shield squad to stand at slip alongside Wade, Paine responded with an unbeaten 71 against Victoria and looked on track for a century before the team declared, to confirm his standing as the most in-form wicketkeeper-batsman in the country.
“Tim was identified as an international player a long time ago and has always been renowned as a very good gloveman, also performing well for us whenever he has represented Australia in any format,” said Hohns.
“His batting form in recent outings for the Cricket Australia XI and Tasmania has been good.”
The left-field selection comes after the country’s wicketkeepers largely failed to impress with the bat after selectors indicated the Test gloves (and No.6 spot) were up for grabs and performances from contenders in the three pre-Ashes Shield rounds would be given the utmost consideration.
While Nevill is widely regarded as the best pure keeper in Australia and Wade has been praised for his improvements behind the stumps, their collective return of 731 runs at 21.50 since Haddin’s last Test in 2015 ultimately counted against them.
“Matt Wade has been left out of the squad following some inconsistent performances with the gloves and lack of form with the bat,” said Hohns. “Unfortunately his run of performances did not improve in the early rounds of Sheffield Shield and we have opted to make a change.”
As expected, Usman Khawaja is set to return to Australia’s XI to slot in at No.3 above captain Steve Smith, who will drop down to No.4 having been at first drop for all but one of Australia’s six Tests in the subcontinent over the winter (excluding innings where a nightwatchman was used). Victorian Peter Handscomb, who scored 157 runs at 26.16 in his three Shield appearances, will remain Australia’s No.5.
Chadd Sayers, last year’s Shield leading wicket taker with 62 scalps, has also won inclusion in the squad with Hohns indicating the South Australian has been included with an eye to the second Test in Adelaide which is set to be played under lights for the first time in Ashes series.
The right-armer has begun the 2017-18 season strongly, collecting 14 wickets at 25 in three matches for the Redbacks.
“Chadd’s inclusion in the squad is with a view to the Adelaide Test and the conditions that we may see there,” said Hohns. “He swings the ball with good control and knows the conditions well at his home ground. He gives us this bowling option if required.”
Sayers joins the likely first Test pace trio of Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood, along with expected back-up quick Jackson Bird, in the squad. The latter quartet sat out this week’s Shield action and instead prepared at the Bupa National Cricket Centre in Brisbane.
Nathan Lyon is the sole spinner in the squad and will likely be required to shoulder a heavy bowling burden given the selection panel’s call to pick a specialist batsman at No.6 rather than an allrounder.
England Test squad: Joe Root (c), James Anderson (vc), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jake Ball, Gary Ballance, Stuart Broad, Alastair Cook, Mason Crane, Tom Curran, Ben Foakes, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Ben Stokes, Mark Stoneman, James Vince, Chris Woakes.
2017-18 International Fixtures
Magellan Ashes Series
First Test Gabba, November 23-27
Second Test Adelaide Oval, December 2-6 (Day-Night).
Third Test WACA Ground, December 14-18
Fourth Test MCG, December 26-30
Fifth Test SCG, January 4-8 (Pink Test)
ODI Series v England
First ODI MCG, January 14
Second ODI Gabba, January 19
Third ODI SCG, January 21
Fourth ODI Adelaide Oval, January 26
Fifth ODI Perth TBC, January 28
Prime Minister’s XI
PM’s XI v England Manuka Oval, February 2
T20 trans-Tasman Tri-Series
First T20I Australia v NZ, SCG, February 3
Second T20I – Australia v England, Blundstone Arena, February 7
Third T20I – Australia v England, MCG, February 10
Fourth T20I – NZ v England, Wellington, February 14
Fifth T20I – NZ v Australia, Eden Park, February 16
Sixth T20I – NZ v England, Seddon Park, February 18
Final – TBC, Eden Park, February 21