Australia v South Africa - Thoughts on the Australian Team

Australia v South Africa - Thoughts on the Australian Team

Shaun Marsh - I am not the greatest fan of Shaun Marsh, however I think he deserves his inclusion as an opening batsman here. At 33 years of age, his First Class average of 40 does not do justice for a player of his talents. However, you can't deny he could hardly have done much more with scores of 182 and 130 in his last two Test Matches against the West Indies and Sri Lanka. His Test record is actually not too bad with an average of 40 from 18 Tests. Whilst I don't doubt Marsh’s class as a player, I think he can be a bit "all or nothing". When he’s down on confidence and form he seems to not be the mentally strongest player. Marsh has never started an Australian summer in the first choice team, however he gets his chance here in his preferred position as an opening batsman. at 33 yeas old he needs to make it count. 

David Warner - Warner has turned himself into an outstanding Test Match batsman and probably the first name on the team sheet outside of the captain. He is a brilliant player off the front and back foot and particular adept on home soil. He has an excellent record in Perth and has played Dale Steyn and the South Africans well in the past. It is vital to have an opening batsman that can seize the momentum and Warner is the key player in this series. The last time Warner played South Africa in Test cricket he exploded, scoring 543 runs at an average of 90, dominating the likes of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel. Warner was in outstanding form in the recent ODI series against South Africa and he is without doubt Australia's most important batsman heading into Perth.

Usman Khawaja - Khawaja is a class player and clearly in the Top 6 batsmen in the country. At 29 years old Khawaja is in his prime as a batsman and will be desperate to cement his place after a chastising tour of Sri Lanka.  Khawaja has a pretty good Test Average of 44 from 17 Tests, and looked to have truly established himself last summer batting in sublime form from the Number 3 position. Khawaja was dominant last Australian summer peeling off three centuries at an average over 100, and also notching a ton in New Zealand in Australia's series win. Khawaja was probably right in saying that he was unlucky to be dropped after just two Test Matches on the Sub-Continent. However, his comments about being a "scapegoat" were not the smartest even if he felt they were true. It only puts more pressure on him to perform. There was little to gain from the comments I feel however it shows how much belief he has in his own ability and how comfortable he is at this level. 

Steve Smith - Smith is the best batsman in the team and arguably the best batsman in the world. An extremely high class player, Smith has an astounding average of 58 from 44 tests and I feel that average could get even higher as his career goes on. Smith is unorthodox, however he clearly has belief in his own game. The only worry I have for Smith is the pressure of captaining an Australian side that is clearly well below the standards of recent eras. That will weigh him down and will eventually take a toll on his batting. If the South African attack can get the better of Smith expect them to get the upper hand in the series.

Adam Voges - Voges is a great inclusion for Australia despite experiencing a lean tour of Sri Lanka. Australia has always needed an older head or two around the group especially during a time where the team has been less dominant. With the likes of Simon Katich and Chris Rodgers filling that void in the past, Voges has done an outstanding job to average 72 from his 18 Tests. Whilst that average is likely to only go one way and that is down, I feel Voges can carry on for another 12-18 months and play a steady role in the middle order. However, for older players, you’re only one or two bad Tests away from everyone claiming your eyes have gone. Players rarely produce great performances when they get closer to 40, so Voges could fall off a cliff quicker than expected. Still, he is totally deserving and a great inclusion here. 

Mitch Marsh - I will be honest, I don't agree with the selection of Mitchell Marsh. I think the selectors are too pre-occupied with project players and finding that all-rounder to "balance the side out". Averaging 24 from 18 Tests is simply not good enough for a batsman to bat at 6 for Australia. It’s no surprise really, as Marsh averages under 30 in First Class cricket through 66 games.  It will be fine when he is coming in at 4/300 on home soil occasionally. However, when Australia are under the pump, he is not a guy that fills you with confidence coming in at Number 6. Marsh is a genuine 5th bowler option and, with some doubts over the fitness of Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood, I can see why he has been picked in that regard. Still I think he has plenty to prove at this level. 

Peter Neville - I am a fan of Peter Neville, however he heads into this series under a fair bit of pressure. Despite him clearly being the best pure wicket keeper in the country, he needs more runs to cement his spot in the long term. A Test average of 20 from 5 Tests with just two half-centuries is a poor return from a batsman capable of much more. Neville is nowhere near as dynamic as the likes of Adam Gilchrist or a Brad Haddin, however with six First Class centuries, he is capable of scoring big runs in the crucial Number 7 position. I think Neville has played a little too cautiously so far as he looks to establish his place. Whilst he is not a bludgeoning type player he is capable of batting at a much stronger tempo. This is a big series for Neville, I feel he really needs a century or at least a couple of half centuries to keep the wolves at bay. 

Mitchell Starc - In twelve months Starc has gone from a hot and cold strike bowler on the fringe of the Team, to the undisputed leader of the attack. Starc was a clear stand out in a miserable tour of Sri Lanka for Australia, bowling with venom and control to claim 24 wickets at 14 apiece. Starc has the ability to intimidate with his pace; however he also has a lethal yorker that claimed several wickets in Sri Lanka. There are a few question marks over his fitness having not played for over two months. In the past Starc was the sort of bowler who needed rhythm and overs under his belt, so only playing half the Shield game against Queensland seemed like an interesting decision on the surface. 

Peter Siddle - Siddle deserves his inclusion for mine as Australia's 3rd seamer for this Test Match. There have been times over the past couple of years when Siddle has been dropped and many thought he was on the decline. However, at 31 years of age he isn't that old, and with 61 Tests at an average of 29 he is a steady and reliable contributor. At times when he hasn't played in the last couple of years, Australia has lacked a pace bowler who can do the donkey work, and play a holding role. Siddle can build pressure and is a popular member of the team. Whilst he is unlikely to blow teams away, I think he can hold his spot this summer provided he stays healthy and he chips in with 4-5 wickets a Test Match.

Nathan Lyon - Lyon is one of the first names on the team sheet for Australia with his dependable off-spin. Lyon is more than a holding bowler - that would be doing him a disservice. He can bowl beautifully in the home conditions with the bounce he generates in particular. Lyon will be particularly handy against South Africa's left handers and has enjoyed bowling in Perth in the past. I found puzzling the criticism Lyon received in Sri Lanka from Captain Steve Smith and Coach Darren Lehmann. While the conditions did favour the spinners, he still did a serviceable job with 16 wickets at 31, which is under his overall Test average of 211 wickets at 32 through 57 tests. Lyon will play every Test this summer and I expect him to be as reliable as ever. 

Josh Hazlewood - After a number of stop/start summers through injury, Hazlewood has finally established himself as close to a lock-in for the Australian Test team. Hazlewood was touted from a very young age and there was plenty of hype about him as a 17 year old when he debuted for New South Wales against New Zealand. However, he has had to bide his time and wait for his body to deal with the rigours of red ball cricket. Through 20 Tests Hazlewood already has the impressive numbers of 77 wickets and can mix aggression with accuracy. Whilst you feel he has not quite reached his best, if he stays healthy this could be a real break out summer for Hazlewood in terms of production.