Ashes 2017/18: Australia announce 13-man squad for first two Tests
What's the story?
Australia have announced their squad for the first two Tests of the upcoming Ashes series against England. 32-year old Tim Paine has pipped Tasmanian team-mate Matthew Wade as well as New South Wales' Peter Nevill to seal the wicket-keeper's slot.
National Selector Trevor Hohns stated, "Tim was identified as an international player a long time ago and has always been renowned as a very good gloveman, also performing well for us whenever he has represented Australia in any format. His batting form in recent outings for the Cricket Australia XI and Tasmania has been good."
The 13-man squad includes two uncapped players in the form of Cameron Bancroft and Chadd Sayers. Shaun Marsh also returns to the squad. Matt Renshaw, Hilton Cartwright, Ashton Agar and Glenn Maxwell have all been left out from the contingent which had travelled to Bangladesh for Australia's previous Test assignment.
Initially, the tussle for the gloveman's role was predominantly between Wade and Nevill. However, Paine's performance with both bat and gloves in the warm-up match between Cricket Australia XI and England has convinced the selectors to take a calculated gamble. The right-hander last played Test cricket in 2010.
The heart of the matter
Hohns explained Renshaw's omission by pointing towards his slim pickings in the ongoing Sheffield Shield season. The opener has scored just 70 runs from six innings for Queensland. Meanwhile, Shaun Marsh was rewarded for his consistent form with the bat. He tallied a half-century each in three successive matches for Western Australia.
Marsh's inclusion meant that vacant spots in the middle-order were sparse. In what can be construed as a clear indication of backing specialist options, the selectors overlooked the all-round duo of Cartwright and Maxwell.
With one eye on the day-night match in Adelaide, Sayers' addition is expected to bolster the seam department. Mitchell Starc, whose previous Test appearance came against India in Bengaluru earlier this year, will spearhead the pace attack. As expected, Nathan Lyon remains the sole specialist spinner in the squad.
Australia Squad: Steve Smith (captain), David Warner (vice-captain), Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscomb, Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine (wicket-keeper), Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood, Jackson Bird and Chadd Sayers
The 2017/18 Ashes series will begin at the Gabba on the 23rd. The second Test, which will be played under lights, is slated to be held at the Adelaide Oval between December 2 and 6.
The Australian selectors have pulled off quite a few left-field choices in the squad. Even though Paine offers solidity with the bat, the hosts could have backed Nevill's impressive skill-set behind the stumps. Overall, the squad appears to cover most bases.