Underperforming batsmen and an untimely calf flare-up to Steve O’Keefe have complicated matters further for Australia’s interim selection panel on the eve of an especially tense squad announcement for the Adelaide Test.
The acting chairman of selectors, Trevor Hohns, is expected to name a 13-man squad for the day/night match on Sunday afternoon, underlining the uncertainty surrounding Australian cricket on the back of five consecutive defeats, and two in a row at home for the first time since the fateful Ashes summer of 2010-11.
While the youthful trio of Peter Handscomb, Matt Renshaw and Travis Dean all put their names in lights with centuries, Joe Burns and Callum Ferguson completed double failures in the Sheffield Shield match between Queensland and South Australia at the Gabba to slip further towards the precipice.
Of equal concern for the panel is the fact that O’Keefe is believed to have suffered a flaring of an ongoing calf problem on day three of the New South Wales v Victoria encounter at the SCG. He had been favoured to return to the Test XI in place of the incumbent Nathan Lyon, who has struck a horrid wicket drought at the worst possible time.
O’Keefe’s injury prognosis may also have a knock-on effect for the wicketkeepers Peter Nevill and Matthew Wade. While the Australians are eager for the lower-order heft that Wade could provide, his inferior glovework, particularly to Lyon, may yet play in Nevill’s favour. A third spin option, Jon Holland, has bowled well for Victoria at the SCG.
Another name, not seen in lights for some time, is that of Sam Whiteman, the Western Australia wicketkeeper. A half-century and century against Tasmania at the WACA Ground met yet cause his name, too, to be discussed in the stumpers’ stakes.
Australia Possible Team Squad for 3rd Test vs South Africa 2016
The elegant New South Wales left-hander Kurtis Patterson did his chances no harm with a well-constructed 55 for his state on Saturday. Patterson and Handscomb would likely slot into the places vacated by Ferguson and the concussed Adam Voges.
Renshaw and Dean, two players not considered particularly fashionable in terms of physique or method, both place a high premium on batting time, a quality badly missing in Australia’s recent defeats. Another possible choice, though less likely, is Victoria’s Marcus Harris, who moved from Western Australia at the start of the season to good effect – only Handscomb is ahead of him on the national aggregates.
Among the pace bowlers to support Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood, the South Australia pair of Chadd Sayers and Daniel Worrall are in the selectors’ thoughts, as is Jackson Bird. Like his fellow Redback Ferguson, Joe Mennie may yet find himself on the outer after only one Test – a further measure of how much things have changed in the course of a single fractious week.
Possible squad Steven Smith (capt), Matt Renshaw, David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Kurtis Patterson, Peter Handscomb, Matthew Wade (wk), Steve O’Keefe, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon, Jackson Bird, Daniel Worrall/Chadd Sayers.