Pakistan v Australia Test - Men's
Fresh faces set for Paine's new era
Take a look at the possibles and probables ahead of the announcement of Australia's Test squad this week
10 September 2018, 05:53 PM AEST
Australian cricket will take a big step forward into the Justin Langer era this week when selectors name their Test squad for next month's series against Pakistan in the UAE.
With Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft all suspended, and Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins sidelined due to injury, there will be several new faces in Tim Paine's first squad as full-time Test skipper.
We break down all the options that selectors will be weighing up.
With three spots to fill in the top six following the Cape Town scandal, there's rarely been a better time for batters around the country to push their name forward.
Dumped ahead of the Ashes, opener Matthew Renshaw appears to be back in favour following a standout JLT Sheffield Shield season, while veteran Shaun Marsh is a lock following his strong home Ashes campaign and is on track to recover in time from a shoulder problem.
Usman Khawaja and Mitchell Marsh both notched impressive centuries on the current Australia A tour of India and the fact Glenn Maxwell was overlooked for the A squad entirely was a strong endorsement of his credentials in the subcontinent.
Peter Handscomb is a Test incumbent but has reached double figures just once in his past nine innings, a drop in form that has brought South Australia skipper Travis Head and young Queenslander Marnus Labuschagne into the frame, especially given the latter pair have impressed with the A squad.
Head, an ODI regular, has posted scores of 87 and 68 in India while Labuschagne, the 24-year-old who was the second-highest run-scorer last Shield season, posted scores of 60 and 37 last week.
The fact Handscomb is a renowned player of spin and a back-up wicketkeeping option works in his favour, while Head (off-spinner) and Labuschagne (specialist short leg fielder and part-time leg-spinner) also offer more than just batting in conditions that will suit slow bowling.
Joe Burns, another Test incumbent who opened with Renshaw in Johannesburg in March but was overlooked for the A tour, also has a strong case while momentum has been building for T20 skipper Aaron Finch to earn his maiden Test call-up following his strong form in limited overs cricket over the winter.
Just who bats where in top six for the first Test will also be up for debate heading into the series, with skipper Tim Paine - an obvious lock at No.7 in the side - to have a major say in the structure of his batting line-up.
Nathan Lyon is an obvious selection here and Victoria's Jon Holland appears primed for a recall after his match-winning nine-wicket haul for Australia A last week.
Ashton Agar offers an all-round package and showed positive signs in Bangladesh last year, while young leg-spinner Mitchell Swepson and veteran tweaker Steve O'Keefe are the options should selectors opt for a fourth spinner.
The series is set to be dominated by spin, but the absence of Hazlewood and Cummins due to injury means there will likely be at least one uncapped pace bowler in the squad.
Mitchell Starc is back to full fitness and will lead the attack, and selectors showed they're a fan of young WA quick Jhye Richardson by naming him in the squad to go to South Africa earlier this year.
But then it gets complicated; Victoria's Chris Tremain and Queensland duo Michael Neser and Brendan Doggett are all with the ‘A’ squad in India and have shown an ability to hold up an end on dry subcontinent surfaces, which will be an important attribute for the UAE series.
And don't forget veteran Peter Siddle, who has stormed back into contention thanks to his red-hot form for English county champions Essex, where he's taken 37 wickets in seven games at 16.
In a side crying out for experienced players, the Victorian ticks plenty of boxes.
Possible Test squad: Tim Paine (c), Matthew Renshaw, Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Travis Head, Marnus Labuschagne, Joe Burns, Mitchell Starc, Jhye Richardson, Peter Siddle, Nathan Lyon, Jon Holland, Ashton Agar