Tim Paine will play his first Test match in more than seven years as part of an extraordinary Australian Ashes team selection to face England at the Gabba.
Cameron Bancroft‘s rich vein of recent domestic form has eclipsed the worth of Matt Renshaw’s sturdy first 10 Tests, while the 34-year-old Shaun Marsh is set to make yet another return to the Australia batting order.
On Thursday Paine was fielding minus gloves for Tasmania at the MCG in a Sheffield Shield match as the Test incumbent Matthew Wade stood behind the stumps. But by early evening word had circulated of the selectors’ decision to reinstate Paine in place of Wade for his first Test since Bengaluru in 2010.
At the time he was touted as a future captain, before a horrid finger fracture in a Twenty20 exhibition match took Paine to the brink of retirement. His meritorious return to the game was recognised earlier this year with a recall as Australia’s T20 wicketkeeper, and ahead of the Ashes the selector Mark Waugh had revealed the 32-year-old was back in the Test mix despite being in the same state as Wade, who moved from Victoria to Tasmania in the off-season.
“Matthew Wade did a pretty good job in the subcontinent, he’s had some tough places to keep on in Bangladesh and India, he’s done a pretty good job without scoring the runs,” Waugh said in October. “He’s disappointed with his scoring of runs since he’s been back in, because that was one of the reasons we brought him back, to get some runs out of that middle to lower order.
“That hasn’t happened, so he hasn’t nailed that down, so that opens a spot up for conjecture. Peter Nevill’s definitely there or thereabouts, we’ve got a young guy in Alex Carey who’s making good inroads, and even someone like Tim Paine, his glovework’s been excellent when he’s been given the chance in the T20s, it’s just that he’s probably not going to be playing for Tasmania, so that makes it a bit difficult for him, but I think we’ve got the depth there.”
Paine’s selection will not only displace Wade but also Peter Nevill, a more recent Test gloveman who was considered likely to resume in a team where Australia have moved from choosing an allrounder at No. 6 to picking the best six batsmen in deference to a strong visiting bowling attack.
At the same time Renshaw’s omission and Marsh’s inclusion will raise eyebrows given the Cricket Australia Board’s instruction to the selectors last November to look for longer term, youthful options. Several players of similar age and with similar records to Marsh have either not entered selection calculations or not even been chosen for their states. Ed Cowan and Michael Klinger were dropped for New South Wales and Western Australia, while the Tasmanian pair of George Bailey and Alex Doolan have not figured in discussions.
The selection changes have already caused a stir in the Australian cricket community, not unlike the changes made to the team on the eve of the 2010-11 Ashes series. In the words of Jamie Cox, a selector at that time, “You’re only right if you win.”
Australia Ashes squad: (possible) Steven Smith (capt), David Warner, Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscomb, Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood, Jackson Bird