The upcoming third Ashes test will be dominated by the ‘will he or wont he’ over Steven Smith being able to play. Justifiably so, the decision will arguably decide the result and indelibly shift the destiny of the series. With Smith’s Bradman exploits with the willow the Aussie batting has approached adequate as opposed to being there for the taking if he misses the match. If he did it would be most likely that England on the back of improving their bowling would exploit the flimsy batting in kind to win the Headingly test to level the series.
This focus makes other decisions the Aussie selectors are contemplating tougher. The main one is the likely changes to the spluttering top three as touted by captain Tim Paine who expressed there might be changes.
David Warner’s name looms large
The cavalier opener for most of his test career has been the fulcrum of the Aussie batting. Similar to the meaning Virender Sehwag had to the strong Indian teams of the past the cavalier Aussie sets the table for the rest of the batting with the blitzkrieg starts he gives the team. With Warner ablaze the sole focus comes on him allowing pressure off others which facilitates their success.
The axterix near Warner’s career is the home/away splits in his performances at test level;
15 of his 21 centuries come at home where he averages 59.64
Only 6 centuries away where his average drops to 36.25
In England, his average drops to 30.25 with no centuries.
After scores of 3.5, 2 and 8 in the first two tests in this Ashes series it raises the question of whether he should be dropped?
Not helping his cause have been dropped catches in the field by him at key moments. Most recently the 2 dropped catches in the previous test off Ben Stokes which gave rise to the English all rounder nearly commanding a series leveling win for the English.
In my mind, there are three options;
1, Drop Warner
This is justified, but the selectors would be loath to do so. Particularly if Smith is out of the third test it would deprive the team of it most experienced batsman.
2, Back him in
There are two levels to this with the first adhering to the old adage of ‘form is temporary but class is permanent.’
By doing this, they would be ignoring his career struggles in England and instead embracing hope.
The second layer is they need to back him due to his experience and his maybe along with its meaning to the team. Part of this is whether his replacement would be a better bet than banking on the maybe of Warner
3, Move him down the order to 5/6
Warner has struggled against the movement of the new ball. He seems betwixt and between in the line to play which always sets him up for lbw or being nicked off. This is in stark contrast to conditions in Australia where he has dominated due to the ball coming onto the bat in a true fashion with swing seldom a factor.
If he was moved down the order this threat would be lessened which could reignite him.
My choice would be to drop Cam Bancroft who has looked hopelessly out of his depth with his technique badly exposed. After dropping Bancroft, I would open with Usman Khawaja and Marcus Harris and move Warner to number 5.
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