Former Australia coach Darren Lehmann says T20 master blaster Aaron Finch is a "really good chance" to be selected for Australia’s Test series against Pakistan.
Finch, Australia’s T20 skipper and one-day international deputy, has been in blistering form this winter having peeled off centuries in both white-ball formats, including a T20I world-record score of 172 against Zimbabwe last month in Harare.
Australia’s selectors are set to pick the squad for the two-Test series against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates after Australia A’s two four-day matches in India next month.
But Lehmann says Finch, who blasted 117 not out from just 52 balls for Surrey in England’s domestic T20 competition on Friday night, has the game to succeed against Pakistan.
And the former mentor revealed the Victorian was close to earning a Test call-up when he was at the helm and a member of the selection panel.
"He can play Test cricket, there’s no doubt about that," Lehmann told the Geelong Advertiser.
"He’s confident in the way he plays spin bowling, he can take an attack on, and leading into this Pakistan series he’s a really good chance to be selected for that one.
"He was always knocking on the door, but he just hadn’t made runs consistently.
"But his last couple of Shield years have been pretty good. If you take a look at his numbers, they’re right up there.
"He probably could’ve made a few more hundreds and pushed his case even further but he’s one player we talked about quite a lot.
"He’s close, and when I was coach, he was close. He’s probably closer now."
In the past three JLT Sheffield Shield seasons, Finch has amassed 1278 runs at 41.22 in 19 matches.
While those numbers are solid, the right-hander produced only two centuries in that period.
No player has scored more international runs without playing a Test match than Finch, who has amassed 4957 runs in 135 matches for his country.
But the burly 31-year-old is not making any excuses for that unwanted record nor the absence of a Baggy Green in his kit bag.
"I’ve got myself to blame for that (not playing Tests)," Finch said last month.
"When I was younger I had an opportunity to really push my case for a few years.
"I had probably 18 to 24 months of really lean four-day or any red-ball cricket to be honest.
"I was playing good white-ball cricket for Australia and couldn’t get the runs on the board in red-ball cricket."
Australia, under coach Justin Langer, will embark on their first Test tour in seven years without one of Steve Smith or David Warner when they travel to the Emirates in October after the pair were suspended from representing Australia until next March for their involvement in the Cape Town ball-tampering scandal.
Along with a mountain of Test runs and hundreds, Smith and Warner’s absence leaves a huge leadership hole along with international experience.
Finch has both international experience and leadership nous in spades, albeit not at Test level, and could be the level head Langer’s side needs in the UAE.
Where Finch would bat if selected remains a mystery. He opens the batting in white-ball cricket but has predominately batted in the middle order for Victoria.
Lehmann says the playing conditions would dictate where Finch bats should he be picked.
"For example, if you’re playing in the subcontinent where the wickets don’t seam that much, I’d open with him," Lehmann said.
"But if you’re playing in Australia, I’d bat him down the list.
"That’s the challenge Justin (Langer) and the selection panel have. But they’ve got to pick him first and work out where he bats."
If Finch does earn a ticket to the UAE, he said last month he’d be ready for the challenge.
"I’ve started to build up my red-ball game again and I feel a lot more comfortable now," he said.
"I’ve started to play my natural game, ultra-aggressive whether I’m playing in Australia or England.
"Test cricket will take care of itself if I keep scoring runs.
"I do feel over the last few years I’ve adapted my game and I’m in a much better position."