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Australia Test Hopefuls Fail to Fire in India

Reuters | Updated: August 31, 2018, 12:43 PM IST
Australia Test Hopefuls Fail to Fire in India

Melbourne: Australia's hopes of rebounding quickly from the ball-tampering controversy in South Africa has hit a rough patch, with very few players staking claims for a spot in the national side ahead of the Pakistan Test series in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

With five vacancies in the Test team, largely due to suspensions and injuries, tour hopefuls had a round of auditions as part of a strong Australia 'A' squad in the Quadrangular One-Day series in India.

Most fluffed their lines, however, leaving coach Justin Langer and selectors with a number of unanswered questions before the UAE tour kicks off. The Australia A team featuring the likes of Usman Khawaja and spinner Ashton Agar were thrashed by India B by nine wickets on Wednesday.

Injuries that ruled fast bowlers Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood out of the Pakistan series had left the door open for some of the nation's young talents to emerge in India yet none have really put their hands up.

Billy Stanlake, among the candidates, went wicketless in three matches in the 'A' series and was left to rue his missed chance.

"I bowled really well at times, but was probably too inconsistent with my line and length at other times," he told Cricket Australia's website. "The really disappointing thing for me was I wasn't able to take wickets."

With captain Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft all serving bans, selectors have a huge headache piecing together a new top order. Usman Khawaja scored an unbeaten century in the final group match against India B to suggest he will be in the frame but he managed a total of 46 runs in his other three innings.

Australia's middle-order, which was shaky in the 3-1 series loss to South Africa, remains a concern, with Peter Handscomb's form slump continuing following twin failures in India. Handscomb will need some decent time in the middle in two four-day matches against an India A side over the coming two weeks to have any hope of booking his ticket for the Pakistan series, which starts in Dubai on October 7.

Having come off a dismal 5-0 whitewash in the ODI series by England, Australia have precious little time to build team cohesion for the test series in the UAE. Should no players step up to perform in the absence of the suspended Smith and Warner, the effects of the ball-tampering scandal may continue to smart when Australia host India for a test series in the home summer.
First Published: August 31, 2018, 12:43 PM IST

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