Matt Renshaw’s immediate Test future hangs in the balance after another failure as uncapped opener Cameron Bancroft hit a potentially career-changing double century on Tuesday.
It was initially thought only the No.6 and wicketkeeper’s positions were up for grabs, but selectors now have another big call to make when they convene in Brisbane on Wednesday to finalise their squad.
A year after Peter Handscomb blasted his way to the baggy green with a timely 215, Bancroft may have done likewise with an unbeaten 228 against South in Perth.
Selector Mark Waugh had hinted as recently as Monday that Renshaw was safe but that was before Bancroft’s epic and another cheap dismissal by the incumbent.
A debut for Bancroft at the Gabba is likely to come at the expense of the local boy unless selectors opt for a specialist batsman at six rather than a batting all-rounder.
The uncapped Marcus Stoinis shapes as the No.1 candidate if Trevor Hohns’ panel want overs from a fourth seamer to support the big three of Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood.
If selectors stay true to their word that performances in the shield would be the key factor for Ashes selection then Bancroft will become ‘s 451st Test player next week.
Bancroft was tantalisingly close to a debut two years ago but hit a form trough heading into the first Test and was overlooked for Joe Burns.
“We think he’s a few runs shy at the moment, he’s a few hundreds shy,” then chairman of selectors Rod Marsh said.
“And we’d like to pick him when he’s in sparkling form and getting first-class hundreds, that is when we’d really like to pick a young player.”
There can be no doubting Bancroft’s current form. The 24-year-old is the form batsman in the country, with 425 runs at 141.66 and two impressive half-centuries against ‘s likely Test attack in difficult conditions.
Bancroft is best suited at the top of the order but, as former great Ricky Ponting likes to say, a batsman who can open has the skills to bat anywhere in the top seven.
Bancroft has kept wicket for WA the past two games but it’s unlikely selectors will ask an occasional wicketkeeper to fill the role in such a big series. Peter Nevill remains the favourite to regain the gloves despite failing to convert his latest start into a score of substance.
One of the finds of last summer, Renshaw is teetering after a nightmare start to the season. His woes continued against NSW when he was caught down the leg side for one, completing another twin failure.
Renshaw, 21, is testing the faith of selectors after making just 70 runs at 11.66 in the shield and also struggling in the JLT Cup.
The opener hit his maiden Test ton in the first week of the year and belied his inexperience with some fighting innings in India but now finds himself needing to draw on those credits to avoid the axe.
Nevill appeared to have every chance of finally putting the keeping debate to bed when he walked to the crease in Brisbane. Already, the drums are beating for his return. A fighting 50 would have iced the cake but he made 17 before nicking one off leg-spinner Mitch Swepson.
It gives him scores of 20, 32 and 11* and 17 through four shield knocks at a time when selectors have been crying out for one of the candidates to slam dunk the debate.
The 32-year-old is regarded as the better keeping option than Wade but had a tough first innings in Brisbane, conceding 10 byes, a few of them to some unplayable deliveries from spinner Nathan Lyon.