Qantas Ashes Tour of England
Forgotten Ashes hopeful wins support
Queensland opener Renshaw backed to return to his best after lean run of Shield form and lack of Test cricket this summer
19 March 2019, 04:04 PM AEST
Incumbent Test opener Joe Burns has thrown his support behind the forgotten man in the race to open in the Ashes this year, state teammate Matthew Renshaw.
Renshaw has twice been in Australia’s Test squad this summer without adding to his 11 Tests, and is averaging just 20 with the bat heading into the final round of the JLT Sheffield Shield this week.
The left-hander was a frontrunner for an Ashes spot as early as last year thanks to his headline-grabbing stint for county side Somerset, where he averaged more than 50 and scored three hundreds in an impressive debut against the English Dukes ball.
And when he was called into an extended Test squad to take on Sri Lanka at the Gabba in January, selector Trevor Hohns acknowledged the left-hander had been picked with a view to the Tests against England.
“He’s scored a lot of runs in England when he went over there and played county cricket,” Hohns said. “With the Ashes in mind, it’s probably time now to get him back and around the group.”
But having been overlooked on Australia’s Test tour of the UAE last October and at home against the Sri Lankans, Renshaw has watched the likes of Burns and Marcus Harris jump ahead of him in the race to be one of Australia’s two openers for the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston in August.
And with openers David Warner and Cameron Bancroft both eyeing a return to Test cricket this year as well, Renshaw has fallen even further down the pecking order.
Burns has sympathy for his Bulls teammate after his disappointing season, and says the fact the left-hander is still just 22 years old should not be overlooked.
“People often forget how young he is, and I guess that’s the one disadvantage of debuting so young like he did in international cricket,” Burns told Macquarie Radio of Renshaw, who played his first Test at the age of 20.
“If he was just a domestic player, he would probably fly a bit under the radar and it’s easier to go up and down like most people do in their careers. But 'Renners' has been in the spotlight.
“And we’ve had some difficult wickets as well (this season) so I’ve really felt sorry for him. Life as an opener, you can be batting well at times … but it’s very easy to just nick one early, especially with a new ball and on a fresh wicket.”
Renshaw (Kent), Burns (Lancashire) and Bancroft (Durham) will all head to England in the coming weeks to play county cricket early in the northern summer, giving the trio another chance to push their case in UK conditions ahead of the Ashes.
And with 10 first-class centuries already to his name, Renshaw will be back in the runs soon, according to Burns.
“As long as he keeps working hard … the results will turn,” he said. “Don’t judge your ability on an isolated number of games, (you need to) take a longer view to your development.
“He’s heading over to Kent … so he’s got a lot of cricket to come.
“He’s just got to keep looking forward at how to improve and trust that his ability will come through from there.”
While Renshaw’s immediate Test future is in limbo, Burns is in a strong position to play in his first Ashes series following his last-up 180 against Sri Lanka last month, his fourth hundred in Tests.
Burns is also the fourth-highest run-scorer this Shield season - he has almost 200 more runs than any other Bulls batsman - a tally he’s looking to add to in this week’s clash against WA and then during his maiden stint alongside the likes of Jimmy Anderson and Jos Buttler at Lancs.
“It’s a great opportunity and I’m very thankful … that not just me but a number of our players get the opportunity to play in their domestic competition with the view that we then beat them in the international stuff later in the summer,” he said. “It’s a big advantage for us.
“I’ll be playing alongside a number of English internationals so getting my head around how they approach it (will) prime myself for hopefully an Ashes series after that.”