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Steven Smith confirmed Australia's Test opener against West Indies

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Last updated on 10 Jan 2024 | 04:51 AM
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Steven Smith confirmed Australia's Test opener against West Indies

Cameron Green, who has a terrific record at four and five in first-class cricket, is likely to occupy Smith's spot in the middle-order

Australia selector George Bailey has confirmed that Steven Smith will open in Tests in the upcoming series against West Indies, follwoing the retirement of David Warner. The right-hander will also lead his country in the One-Day International (ODI) series, as Australia have decided to rest their skipper Pat Cummins, who had a memorable yet hectic 2023.

Matt Renshaw, who has opened for Australia in the past has been added to the squad as a reserve, while Bailey also confirmed the return of Cameron Green to the XI. Green is expected to slot in at four in place of Smith. He has a phenomenal first-class record at Nos four and five averaging 65.1 and 86 in those positions respectively.

Smith has out his hand up to open for Australia in the longest format, but skipper Cummins was not keen to shuffle the batting-order. However, Bailey sees things otherwise.

"Steve's obviously motivated and energized and keen to do it," Bailey said. 

"There were plenty within the team who were pretty keen to go on record and say that they weren't keen to do it. So it was refreshing that Steve had come forward and said he wanted it and it was something that we'd been chatting about in the background as a selection panel with the coaches as well.

"It's selfless that someone who's had such success in one position or a couple of positions in the middle order that he's open and willing and hungry to go and have a crack at something new and something different, which provides that opportunity to slot Cam into a position where he's had so much success at first-class level and we think ultimately, is a great spot for him to be in the Test team."

While there were calls to have Cameron Bancroft, the leading run-getter in the Sheffield Shield into the team, Renshaw's flexibility of batting anywhere has helped his case. "I think ultimately you can mount statistically some strong cases for a number of players," Bailey observed. 

"As it currently stands, the panel sees Matt Renshaw is our next best batter. We've gone back 18 months or so and I think if you take into account all first-class cricket I think across that time, those guys have played Shield cricket, some county cricket, some Australia A cricket, and PM's XI games. Matthew's played a couple of Tests in Australia and in India across that period and his numbers stack up as well as anyone's across that time."

Fast bowler Scott Boland too has been named in the 13-member squad for the first Test in Adelaide, starting January 17.

Pace trio rested

Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc rested for the ODI series against West Indies. While Smith will take over as captain for the series, the player of the World Cup final Travis Head has been named his deputy. Australia have also rested Mitchell Marsh for the series, while Marcus Stoinis, who was part of the World Cup winning squad has been left out.

Fast bowler Lance Morris has been included in the 13-member squad and is in line to make his debut in the series. Jhye RIichardsn who last played for Australia in 2022 earns a call-up, and so do Nathan Ellis and Aaron Hardie.

"It is a little over 12 months until the Champions Trophy and further opportunities for the likes of Aaron Hardie, Matt Short, Jhye Richardson, and Nathan Ellis will be valuable both to our ongoing improvement as a team and also further their personal experiences in ODI cricket," Bailey said.

"The squad strikes a balance between players continuing to make their mark on international cricket, playing alongside some of our most experienced players with an eye to the future in this format." 

The ODI series gets underway from February 2 at the MCG, after which the action will move to Sydney and Canberra for the second and third game, before the T20I series.

Australia squad for first Test vs West Indies: Pat Cummins (c), Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Matthew Renshaw, Steven Smith, Mitchell Starc.

Australia ODI squad vs West Indies: Steven Smith (c), Travis Head (vc), Sean Abbott, Nathan Ellis, Cameron Green, Aaron Hardie, Josh Inglis, Marnus Labuschagne, Glenn Maxwell, Lance Morris, Jhye Richardson, Matt Short, Adam Zampa.

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