Australia skipper Tim Paine has hinted at a possible backing for incumbent opener Joe Burns and has revealed that the Aussies will field a side ‘pretty similar’ to the one which routed the Kiwis 3-0 in January. Paine, like Langer, also all but confirmed that Cam Green will make his debut tomorrow.
For the first time this century Australia will head into a crunch encounter unsure about three or four places in the XI, with the opening and middle-order slots all still up for grabs. The injuries to David Warner and Will Pucovski have opened not one but two slots at the very top, while the batting position of Matthew Wade, and the fitness of Steve Smith, still remains a mystery.
But while many believed that incumbent Joe Burns had batted himself out of contention with scores of 4,0,0 and 1 in the warm-up games, Australia skipper Tim Paine, a day before the first Test, has suggested otherwise. Like he’s done all summer, Paine spoke highly of Burns - who had a lengthy, intense net session with coach Justin Langer on Tuesday - and indicated that the Aussie team won’t be different to the one that routed New Zealand 11 months ago, hinting a potential backing for Burns. That could also mean Wade keeping his place in the side and opening alongside the Queenslander.
"Things have changed a little bit with injury but tomorrow you'll see a pretty similar side walk out that finished the summer last year here in Australia. Pretty much we have a team by we won't be releasing it unfortunately until the toss tomorrow,” Paine said in the pre-match press conference on Wednesday.
"If Joe walks out to bat tomorrow, we've got full confidence in him doing the job, there's no doubt about that. He averages just over 40 in Test cricket. Obviously his build-up, in terms of runs, hasn't been great but if you look at the work he's done solely in Test cricket for this team, it's been very, very good.
"Stability in good cricket teams, in good sports teams is really important so that's something we've tried to build over the last two years, to try and have that stability around selection which takes the worry out of it for certain players.”
But despite there being uncertainty over who might and might not play, one person who looks certain to start, fitness permitting, is young Cameron Green. Coach Justin Langer on Tuesday claimed that Green will make his debut should he clear a few late fitness tests pertaining to concussion, but Paine went a step ahead and spoke about how he’ll use the youngster. The Aussie skipper sees the 21-year-old as a specialist batsman who can ‘bowl a few overs’ and compliment the trio of Starc, Hazlewood and Cummins, which, he believes, will be a massive boost to the side.
"I think once you're selected in a Test match you're good to go, but having said that we don't expect him to bowl a huge amount of overs anyway," Paine said of Green.
"With the attack we've got we see him as a nice change-up. He takes maybe 12 to 14 overs an innings out of our key fast bowlers which is great in terms of keeping them fresh, in a pink ball sense, for the night session. And being able to keep them fresh for the whole series.
"Obviously if Greeny can continue to go on the path he is, having him in our side allows us to have Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood around the Australian Test team even longer in terms of their careers. He's going to be a huge asset to us in that sense.”
Australia’s trump card Steve Smith walked away from practice on Tuesday after just 10 minutes, sparking injury concerns, but Paine clarified that the rest was precautionary. The 36-year-old quipped that he expects Smith to score runs in the first Test regardless of how stiff his back is.
"He's had a stiff back before. Yesterday was more precautionary. He's in to train today, so we'll see how he goes. But come tomorrow, whether he's fit and sore in the back, or stiff in the back, I think he normally gets up, gets through it and finds a way to score runs like he always does."