Tour of the West Indies
Voges poised to make Test debut
West Australian looks likely to be included, while leg-spinner Ahmed seems set to miss out once again
3 June 2015, 07:18 AM AEST
Veteran batsman Adam Voges looks set to become Australia's 442nd Test cricketer – unless the warm handshake he had with Mark Waugh on Tuesday was nothing more than a passing on of birthday wishes from player to selector.
Voges held conversation with Waugh as well as coach and selector Darren Lehmann at Australia's final training session at Windsor Park before the first Test against the West Indies, before both selectors shook the hand of the Western Australian.
It could have simply been Voges wishing Waugh a happy 50th birthday, but a more reasonable suggestion is that the-35-year-old had just been told he would receive his first Baggy Green cap on Wednesday.
That sense was strengthened a few moments later when a smiling Voges received a hug from state teammate Shaun Marsh, while Nathan Lyon also put his arm around Voges during the session.
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As is often the case, good news for one player meant bad news for another.
Leg-spinner Fawad Ahmed also had a conversation with Waugh, but their meeting ended not with a warm handshake but with the selector placing a consolatory hand on the Victorian's shoulder.
Selector Mark Waugh speaks with Fawad Ahmed // Getty Images
While the official XI and batting order won't be confirmed until the morning of the match, it now appears likely that Australia will play a traditional structure of five batsman, one allrounder, a wicketkeeper, three quicks and a spinner.
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Should Voges get the nod, he would become just the 16th Australian to debut after his 35th birthday and the oldest to pull on the Baggy Green for the first time since Bryce McGain played his one and only Test in 2009.
Waugh joined the coaching staff and playing squad in closely inspecting the Windsor Park surface before training, with the generous covering of green grass noticeably shorter than it had been over the weekend.
While the surface remains dry and history suggests it will take turn, it appears it was not enough to convince selectors to opt for a two-man spin attack of Ahmed and Lyon.
It is expected that Lyon will instead be supported by the part-time tweakers of Voges and Steve Smith – who both had a bowl at training today – and a three-man pace attack, tipped to comprise of Mitchell Johnson, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc.
Shaun Marsh is expected to open the batting alongside David Warner in place of the injured Chris Rogers, while Voges will bat at either No.5 or No.6.
Shane Watson is tipped to get the nod over Mitchell Marsh as the allrounder in the side.
Voges's elevation to the Test side 12-and-a-half years after he made his first-class debut is just reward for a record-breaking streak of run-scoring over the past nine months.
Voges produced the fourth-best Shield season in history last summer, scoring 1358 runs at 104.46 with six centuries and top score of 249, leaving selectors with little choice but to pick him as one of six frontline batsmen for Australia's winter tours.
His elevation to the Test squad scuppered plans of a full season with English county side Middlesex, but he was still able to squeeze in four Championship matches and a T20 fixture for the Lord's-based club before arriving in the Caribbean.
His short and successful stint in England, highlighted by scores of 98 and 132 in a come-from-behind victory over Somerset a month ago, was followed by a well-made 52 in Australia's warm-up match in Antigua last week.
While Voges spent the short break that followed the end of the Australian summer playing red-ball cricket, the majority of the Australian squad will go into the match having played just one first-class match – in Antigua last week – since the fourth Test against India in early January.
The bulk of the playing group were part of Australia's successful World Cup campaign before some continued on to the Indian Premier League while others had a period of rest and recovery before several weeks of training at the Bupa National Cricket Centre in Brisbane.
Speaking to the media before training, captain Michael Clarke was unsure whether or not the long break between Tests would have an adverse effect on his side this week.
"Ask me that in a couple of days, once the Test match starts," he said. "I think a positive is that a lot of the guys have been playing cricket, whether it be the IPL or playing UK county cricket.
"And then there's been a lot of us at home training in Brisbane.
"We have no excuses. We are as well prepared as we can be. We're ready for this Test match to start tomorrow.
"The West Indies have a really good team.
"They’ve got a couple of very good spinners and their fast bowling is very strong as well.
"We have to make sure we’re switched on with the bat."
Predicted XI: David Warner, Shaun Marsh, Steve Smith, Michael Clarke, Adam Voges, Shane Watson, Brad Haddin, Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood.