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Sunday April 14, 2024

Australia keep faith with Warner for first Pakistan Test

By AFP
December 04, 2023

SYDNEY: Veteran opener David Warner kept his spot in Australia´s squad announced Sunday to face Pakistan in the first Test this month for what is expected to be his farewell series.

Warner was in scintillating white ball form at the recent World Cup, but he has scored just one Test century since early 2020 and averages only 28 since the 2019-2020 summer. It has sparked questions about whether he should retain his place at the top of the order alongside Usman Khawaja, with the likes of Cameron Bancroft, Marcus Harris and Matt Renshaw knocking on the door.

Australias David Warner throws the ball during the 2023 ICC Mens Cricket World Cup ODI final between India and Australia at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad on November 19, 2023. — AFP
Australia's David Warner throws the ball during the 2023 ICC Men's Cricket World Cup ODI final between India and Australia at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad on November 19, 2023. — AFP

That trio will all play for the Prime Minister´s XI against Pakistan in a four-day red ball warm-up this week in Canberra, widely seen as an audition for Warner´s job.

“This group, led by Pat Cummins, has built a strong resume over an extended period,” chairman of selectors George Bailey said of the squad, which was named only for the Perth Test.

“We believe they have earned the opportunity to start in our first home Test match at the beginning of the new World Test Championship cycle.” Australia open the three-Test series in Perth on December 14, before the traditional Boxing Day Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, then Sydney, beginning January 3.

Warner, 37, has indicated he plans to quit the five-day game after the Test at his home Sydney Cricket Ground, but continue in white ball cricket. Australia also have Tests against the West Indies later in January at Adelaide and Brisbane.

“As ever, there will be opportunities in the short- to medium-term to break into this squad,” said Bailey. “We look forward to seeing the continued strong performances from players who have been performing domestically, many of whom will get a tremendous opportunity in the PM´s XI fixture against Pakistan later this week.”

The only change for Perth from the team that started Australia´s last Test against England at the Oval in July is likely to be the return of fit-again spinner Nathan Lyon in place of Todd Murphy, who did not make the squad.

Lyon has 496 Test wickets and is on the verge of joining just seven other Test bowlers to breach the 500-mark, including fellow spin kings Muttiah Muralitharan, Shane Warne and Anil Kumble.

Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood are again set to spearhead the pace attack with Scott Boland and firebrand Lance Morris -- on the comeback from a back stress injury -- waiting in the wings.

All-rounder Mitchell Marsh and Cameron Green were both included in the 14-man squad, but Marsh has moved ahead in the pecking order. Australia squad: David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Mitchell Marsh, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins (capt), Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood, Scott Boland, Cameron Green, Lance Morris.

Pakistan squad for Australia Tests: Shan Masood (captain), Aamir Jamal, Abdullah Shafique, Abrar Ahmed, Babar Azam, Faheem Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Imam-ul-Haq, Khurram Shahzad, Mir Hamza, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Mohammad Wasim Jnr, Noman Ali, Saim Ayub, Salman Ali Agha, Sarfaraz Ahmed (wk), Saud Shakeel and Shaheen Shah Afridi.