Will Pucovski and Cameron Green have been named in Australia’s squad for the Test series against India alongside legspinner Mitchell Swepson and pace-bowling allrounders Michael Neser and Sean Abbott.
Joe Burns, who struggled in Queensland’s three Sheffield Shield matches with 57 runs in five innings, retains his place in the enlarged squad that is required to navigate Covid-19 protocols but it remains to be seen whether he continues his partnership alongside David Warner.
Both Burns and Pucovski have also been included in the Australia A squad for the two warm-up matches in early December which is shaping as the decider for who lines up at Adelaide on December 17.
The five players were among the standout performers during the Sheffield Shield hub in Adelaide which concluded on Wednesday. Pucovski, 22, made back-to-back double centuries – the first to perform that feat in the Shield since 1997-98 – including a career-best 255 not out as he opened the batting for the first time in first-class cricket.
Allrounder Green, who had been named in Australia’s limited-overs squad, has made a careful return to bowling in the last two weeks following back problems and earlier in the season scored a career-best 197.
“It is such a positive sign for Australian cricket to have so many good young players stepping into contention for the Test and Australia A selection,” national selector Trevor Hohns said.
“Two of those many standout players were of course Cameron Green and Will Pucovski. Their undeniable form demanded selection and we are very pleased to have these young men in the squad for what will be a tremendous Test Series against an extremely formidable opponent.
“Cameron has already won selection in the white-ball squad and continues that in joining the Test squad. He is a wonderful young talent who has great potential to become an all-rounder of substance over time. His batting alone has demanded his place in the squad.
“Will’s record breaking start to the summer has been exceptional. His ability to show such patience is something which stands him in good stead for Test cricket and he is in rare company with two double centuries to start the summer. We very much look forward to Will developing further on the international stage.”
Swepson, who was part of Australia’s previous Test squad back in January, for the SCG match against New Zealand, is the leading bowler in the Shield with 23 wickets at 21.17 from three matches. That included three consecutive five-wicket hauls and career-best match figures of 10 for 171 against New South Wales. On Wednesday he secured Queensland’s victory against South Australia with three wickets in 11 deliveries.
He will largely be there to provide back-up in case Nathan Lyon is injured during the series although could come into contention for the XI if Australia want to play two spinners at the SCG.
Neser and Abbott, who are both uncapped at Test level, will provide pace-bowling back-up to the big four of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and James Pattinson although Abbott’s Shield form has thrown his hat into the ring as a potential all-round option.
He scored a maiden first-class century against Tasmania, in a stand of 189 with Starc, as he ended the first part of the Shield season with a batting average of 130.50 alongside 14 wickets at 17.92.
Neser has been a regular squad member for Australia over the last two years and was again very consistent for Queensland. He, too, scored a maiden first-class century (in the same game as taking 5 for 32 against Tasmania) and overall took 10 wickets at 24.40 in three matches.
“Mitch Swepson is another who has excelled and is in fine form for Queensland,” Hohns said. “He gives the side a strong second spin option to Nathan Lyon and we feel he is ready and deserving of the opportunity.
“Sean Abbott has also been outstanding at the start of the summer and comes in to his first Test squad as a very strong fast-bowling option. Add that to his recent batting form over the last 12 months he presents a very complete package in the squad.
The 12 players who played Test cricket last season against Pakistan and New Zealand are included with Hohns previously indicating he did not foresee major changes to the side.
As in the limited-overs set-up, Australia have reverted to a single vice-captain with Pat Cummins named Tim Paine’s deputy meaning Travis Head loses the vice-captaincy tag.
“As was the case with the white ball side we have reverted to a traditional leadership model of captain and vice-captain now we have a settled and in-form group of experienced players,” Hohns said. “Travis remains an important member of the senior leadership group and has been integral in the recent success of the side which is now ranked as the best Test team in the world. He has been a great support to Tim and is a very experienced leader.”
Australia squad Sean Abbott, Joe Burns, Pat Cummins, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Michael Neser, Tim Paine, James Pattinson, Will Pucovski, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson, Matthew Wade, David Warner
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