South Africa vs Australia 2016: Analysing the performance of Australia's debutants
In the wake of two embarrassing losses after all the pre-series talk, Australia had resorted to wholesale changes in their Test team, which was on a downfall ever since the disastrous Sri Lankan tour.
After the loss at Hobart, conceding the series to a determined South African outfit, Australian selector Rod Marsh resigned and was replaced by Greg Chappell. A new look team with six changes was named for the day-night Test which Australia won convincingly.
As the Australian team walked out at Adelaide for the first day, they had three debutants in their top six, the most changes they have made from one Test to the next in their top order since the World War II. In the last twelve Tests, not once has the same Test unit played twice, a shocking statistic for a great cricketing nation like Australia.
The wholesome changes included opener and 20-year-old, Matt Renshaw, who is Warner's third partner at the top in the series in as many Tests. For someone who played a majority of his Tests with two openers, Chris Rogers and Ed Cowan, that is a strange new feeling.
Let us take a look at the youngsters and their performances on their debuts.
#1 Matt Renshaw
The young Yorkshire-born left-handed opener plies his trade for Queensland and was not a widely known figure prior to being selected, so much so that the Australian skipper didn’t know about the youngster. Smith said, "I had to quietly ask a couple of the guys who had met Matt beforehand to make sure they pointed him out to me if he happened to walk past."
However, a keen Australian cricket fan would know Matt Renshaw. He became the youngest player to score a Sheffield Shield hundred last year, when he scored a 170 from 395 balls. In 12 first-class matches, the batsman has 1021 runs at 44.39, including three centuries.
Renshaw is a very un-Australian opener, with a strong resilience and ability to buckle down, show grit and bat long. Former wicketkeeper Brad Haddin described Renshaw as a "bat all day opener". That is exactly what Renshaw is. He can be the perfect foil for the aggressive David Warner and form a wall with his defences.
He also made a fighting 94 against a South Africa A side that included the wily Vernon Philander.
Interestingly, after all the pre-match talk, Renshaw had a different companion as he walked out to the centre. South African skipper Faf du Plessis’ sudden declaration meant that Warner, who had suffered a temporary injury, couldn't come out to open and Usman Khawaja was walking out with Renshaw.
The youngster showed great composure in negating the seam movement under lights and showed great grit as he and his partner ensured no wickets fell after South Africa's declaration on that day.
Renshaw may have taken 19 balls to get off the mark and may also have played and missed at a few, but what was important was that he did not lose his wicket and stayed put. He made just 10 from 46 balls but it was his resilience which stood out.
In the second innings, chasing a modest 127, Renshaw once again buckled down and gave good company to Warner, who went about his business in his usual manner. While critics might point out that his approach was too dogged, he ensured that the Proteas didn’t get a sniff in taking control of the match.