Domain Tests v Sri Lanka
Ponting picks his team for first Test
Former Test skipper backs Usman Khawaja to open at the Gabba, leaving no room for Burns or Renshaw in the side to face Sri Lanka
23 January 2019, 12:31 PM AEST
Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting has named two debutants in his preferred batting line-up to take on Sri Lanka in the first Domain Test in Brisbane.
The Test great has included New South Welshman Kurtis Patterson and Victorian Will Pucovski in his top six for the Gabba.
Patterson is in superb form after hammering scores of 157 and 102 against Sri Lanka for the Cricket Australia XI in Hobart last week.
The left-hander was rewarded for his rich vein of form with a late call-up to the Test squad and Ponting has put him at No.4 in his line-up.
Patterson also boasts an incredible record against the pink ball, punching out four centuries among 715 runs at an average of 65 from 14 innings.
“He’s a bit the same as Pucovski – he’s sort of been on the radar for the past couple of seasons,” Ponting said of Patterson on Melbourne radio station SEN.
"(He) probably just hasn’t had enough runs behind him in the last 12-18 months to really put his name forward ahead of anyone else for selection.
“I think he averages just over 40 now in Sheffield Shield cricket, which is probably as good as any of our young batsmen going around.
“As the selectors have been saying for quite a while now, we have to pick guys that are in form and we want to pick guys who are making hundreds.
“It’s a gutsy call to name a Test squad as they did (on January 9) and then add someone to it at the last minute.
“It’s a gutsy call but I think it’s the right call.”
Prodigiously talented Pucovski, who is averaging 103.66 in the JLT Sheffield Shield this season, is at No.6 in Ponting’s side.
The 20-year-old smashed 243 against Western Australia in Perth in October and already has two first-class centuries from eight matches.
Pucovski returned scores of 23 and 33 not out for the CA XI last week, with Victoria teammate Scott Boland describing him as “the best young player I've ever seen”.
“He’ll be incredibly excited and I’m sure he’ll be a little bit nervous as well with the lead up to what could potentially be his first Test,” Ponting said.
“If Will was going to play, you’d like to think he would’ve been told by now, just to give him as much time as possible to get his head around the situation.
“I actually think he plays. As soon as he was named, I thought he would play and they’d probably give him an opportunity batting at No.6 in these two Tests against Sri Lanka.
“He’s someone that’s been spoken about for a couple of years, really, as quite clearly the best young player we’ve got in Australia.
“He’s started the Shield season well and had a few little issues he’s gone away and dealt with, by the sounds of things.”
CA XI captain Joe Burns (4 and 22) and Matt Renshaw (7 and 10) both missed out on opportunities to impress selectors against Sri Lanka in Hobart last week.
And Ponting says he can’t find room for either Queenslander in his side, opting to stick with Usman Khawaja at the top of the order.
“I think I’d be tempted to open with Khawaja again,” Ponting said.
“He opened in the last Test match against India and that would leave (Marnus) Labuschagne at three. I’d probably go with Kurtis Patterson at four and Travis Head at five and Pucovski at six.
“That would mean that both Burns and Renshaw would not make my final team and that’s the way I think I would go.”
Marcus Harris delivered two half-centuries at the top of the order in his maiden series, while newly-minted joint-vice captain Head retained his place in the squad, along with Khawaja.
Australia’s most senior batsman, Khawaja passed 50 just once from seven innings against India and made 27 and 4 not out as an opener in the last Test in Sydney.
He does, however, average 96.80 from seven innings at the top of the order in Tests, including two tons.
Australia will also be without star paceman Josh Hazlewood (back injury) for the two-Test series, with emerging WA bowler Jhye Richardson replacing him in the squad and a chance to debut at the Gabba.
Ponting’s XI: Marcus Harris, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Kurtis Patterson, Travis Head, Will Pucovski, Tim Paine (c/wk), Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Peter Siddle/Jhye Richardson
Domain Test Series v Sri Lanka
Australia: Tim Paine (c/wk), Joe Burns, Pat Cummins (vc), Marcus Harris, Travis Head (vc), Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Kurtis Patterson, Will Pucovski, Matt Renshaw, Jhye Richardson, Mitchell Starc, Peter Siddle
Sri Lanka: Dinesh Chandimal (c), Dimuth Karunaratne, Lahiru Thirimanne, Kusal Mendis, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Dhananjaya de Silva, Roshen Silva, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Kusal Perera, Dilruwan Perera, Lakshan Sandakan, Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Pradeep, Lahiru Kumara, Dushmantha Chameera, Kasun Rajitha
Jan 24-28: First Test, Gabba (D/N)
Feb 1-5: Second Test, Canberra