Following another Australian capitulation on day one of the second Commonwealth Bank Test, national coach Darren Lehmann conceded more selection changes could be on the horizon.
Middle-order batsman Adam Voges was well aware heading into the summer that, at 37, the pressure on him would come quickly if he failed to make runs, and the WA captain – who was out first ball yesterday – has failed to reach 30 in his past eight Test innings.
But with a line-up already baring several names unfamiliar to the Australian public, who can the selectors turn to in a bid to solve the team’s batting woes?
We’ve scoured the domestic ranks and found 11 players (seven batsmen and four allrounders) who represent the most likely candidates for Lehmann and his fellow selectors to consider ahead of the third Test in Adelaide.
George Bailey (Tas)
First-class record: 121 matches, 7,791 runs at 39.75. 19x100s, 39x50s
Why: Bailey has proven himself a dependable middle-order figure for Australia's ODI side over the past few years and also filled that role for Tasmania in the Sheffield Shield. Looks in excellent form after a defiant 142 not out against South Australia last week, and comes off the back of a 761-run Shield season last summer.
Why not: While Bailey has told cricket.com.au he'd relish another chance at the top level with what he believes is a much better batting technique, he also believes selectors should be looking at the younger generation. The 34-year-old had five Tests to prove himself in the 2013-14 Ashes, and while Australia won all five, his unbeaten 53 in Adelaide and a world-record equalling 28 from one James Anderson over in Perth may remain the highlights he hangs his Baggy Green cap on.
Cameron Bancroft (WA)
First-class record: 44 matches, 2,792 runs at 37.22. 7x100s, 9x50s
Why: A throwback to an older generation, Bancroft has built his game on patience, determination and accumulation. He made a gritty unbeaten half-century to get Australia A home against India A in September while he's also had a couple of marathon stays at the crease in Shield cricket. Has started this Shield season slowly with four scores below 30 but looks to have the temperament and technique to make it at the highest level.
Why not: Australia have no shortage of top-order options at the moment, with Shaun Marsh, Usman Khawaja and Joe Burns all jostling for a position somewhere between mainstays David Warner and Steve Smith. Bancroft looks destined for a top three spot so the main issue is opportunity, and pecking order, but with his 24th birthday this week, there's plenty of time for the right-hander.
Peter Handscomb (Vic)
First-class record: 60 matches, 3,639 runs at 38.71. 8x100s, 24x50s
Why: Named Australia A captain in for the winter series against India A and South Africa A, Handscomb is a classy if somewhat unorthodox right-hander who looks set to figure in national selectors' plans, perhaps sooner rather than later. Has begun the Shield season strongly with a pair of half-centuries to cap off some super impressive performances with Australia A in Queensland recently. Equally adept facing pace or spin, the 25-year-old looks a Test player of the future.
Why not: Difficult to make a compelling case against him at the moment, though – like the rest of the players on this list – a 1000-plus runs Shield season would certainly add to his credentials.
Travis Head (SA)
First-class record: 47 matches, 2,772 runs at 33.39. 3x100s, 20x50s. 18 wickets at 58.66
Why: The reigning Sheffield Shield Player of the Year had a breakout summer last season, showcasing his undeniable batting talents in all three formats. The left-hander has worked his way into the ODI team and earned plaudits from the likes of Ricky Ponting as the next big batting thing in Australian cricket. Throw in some handy right-arm off-spin, and Head appears destined for a big future.
Why not: Too soon? The 22-year-old has had serious responsibility thrust his way at an early age and already has almost 50 first-class matches to his name, however he looks to still be learning the fine balance between aggression and patience, as his conversion rate attests. Still, all three of his hundreds came last Shield season, with just one fifty, so he's heading in the right direction.
Jake Lehmann (SA)
First-class record: 18 matches, 1,322 runs at 48.96. 5x100s, 4x50s
Why: Like his teammate Head, Lehmann had a breakthrough 2015-16 campaign, emerging as a key middle-order contributor for the Redbacks, and began this season in a similar vein with 129 against Tasmania last week. His maiden hundred was an impressive 205 and he continued his form during a stint with Yorkshire, during which his happy knack for posting hundreds (five already in 18 games) continued via 116 against Somerset. Would certainly be a bolter in the Baggy Green at this stage but seems the type to thrive under the pressure of the big stage – and while it's early doors, that first-class average is among the very best in the country.
Why not: Experience. Lehmann is yet to play 20 first-class matches, meaning selectors are unlikely to gamble on the 24-year-old at this point. Still, England did it with Haseeb Hameed … so you never know.
Nic Maddinson (NSW)
First-class record: 58 matches, 3,614 runs at 38.04. 8x100s, 17x50s
Why: It's six years now since his debut hundred floored everyone with its quality, and while the flame may have dimmed somewhat in the intervening years, there's little doubt that Maddinson possesses the batting gifts to be a hit at international level. An aggressive left-hander who can swing a match in a session, the 24-year-old would be a dangerous weapon wherever he slotted into Australia's top six. He's another to have kick-started his Shield season with a century.
Why not: Maddinson's gifts have also been his curse, with promise and potential currently trumping performance. With the national side currently trying to find a way to avert its now habitual batting collapses, a free-wheeling stroke-maker might not be at the top of selectors' thinking.
Kurtis Patterson (NSW)
First-class record: 32 matches, 2,171 runs at 42.56. 5x100s, 13x50s
Why: Patterson is only 23 but the Blues middle-order man is enjoying his second coming as a batsman and, with a tighter technique and oozing confidence, he looks one of the country's best young batting talents. Patterson was a star for Australia A in the winter series and then made a cracking hundred in the Blues' first Shield match of the summer, putting on a double-century stand with Australia captain Smith. If the selectors are looking to generation next to shore up the middle order, they could do much worse.
Why not: One summer does not a swallow make. Patterson was excellent last Shield season and has bracketed that with a hundred on debut back in 2011 and the aforementioned to open this season, but he'll be well aware he needs to knuckle down and put up big numbers this campaign if he's to figure among talk of Test candidates.
Ashton Agar (WA)
First-class record: 42 matches, 1,427 runs at 26.92. 2x100s, 8x50s. 111 wickets at 39.42. 5x5wi, 2x10wm
Why: Well we know he's not concerned about the big stage, after one of the most remarkable Test debuts in recent memory. That 98 from No.11 aside, Agar's aggression and clean striking has been compared to the great Adam Gilchrist, and while his numbers certainly don't corroborate such a claim, there's little doubt he has the potential to be a strong performer at the top level. A 10-wicket haul against the Blues in the Shield last start, plus two hundreds last campaign, all add to the argument that the 23-year-old would make a valuable addition to the side from No.6.
Why not: Consistency. Agar's numbers make the case against him a strong one. Runs, and wickets, are the simple solution.
Glenn Maxwell (Vic)
First-class record: 44 matches, 2,707 runs at 41.64. 5x100s, 17x50s. 55 wickets at 39.87. 0x5wi
Why: Maxwell has shown in the shorter versions just what an impact he's capable of having on the international scene, with blistering hundreds in recent years in both ODI and T20 cricket. Unorthodox and utterly absorbing to watch, the big-hitting right-hander has an eye like a hawk and knows exactly how to take a match away from the opposition. Has repeatedly claimed the red-ball game is his best format, and his first outing for the Shield season was an important 81 for the Bushrangers. Offers another spin option with the ball.
Why not: Five hundreds in 44 matches aren't enough for a man of his ability, while question marks about technique against the swinging ball and temperament for the long form remain. A player like Maxwell though is certainly capable of proving his critics wrong.
Moises Henriques (NSW)
First-class record: 65 matches, 2,873 runs at 30.89. 4x100s, 15x50s. 98 wickets at 30.66. 2x5wi
Why: Henriques has had a couple of cracks at Test cricket – on both occasions in daunting subcontinental conditions. He enhanced his reputation on debut during Australia's ill-fated 2013 tour of India, making 68 and 81no while others struggled, and looks to have grown as a batsman since, as evidence by his form in the Matador One-Day Cup. Nowadays a handy medium-pacer, he brings a strong all-round package to the table.
Why not: His past six Test innings have produced the sum total of 15 runs, while his two wickets (as well as the fact he wasn't even called on to bowl in Australia's recent third Test defeat in Sri Lanka) in four matches indicate he isn't the impact fifth bowling option national coach Darren Lehmann craves.
Marcus Stoinis (Vic)
First-class record: 37 matches, 2,193 runs at 37.81. 4x100s, 16x50s. 27 wickets at 47.81. 0x5wi
Why: Stoinis blasted a hundred in Australia A's first match of the winter series against India A to make a big statement that he was ready for the next level. After finishing seventh in the Shield run-scorers list in 2014-15 with 785 runs, including nine half-centuries but without a hundred, the Victorian made a pair of hundreds last summer to again figure in the country's top 10 performers with the bat (ninth, with 659 runs at 38.76). A classy batsman who has been preferred at No.3 for the Vics ahead of some high-quality teammates, the 27-year-old appears there or thereabouts in the discussion for Australia's middle-order.
Why not: Like Henriques, the right-arm medium-pacer hasn't produced enough results with the ball to push for selection as a fifth bowling option, and while his batting returns have been strong, there are others seemingly knocking on the door a little harder.
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