Burns, Head and Bancroft named in Australia squad

Joe Burns and Travis Head are set to fill the batting vacancies in Australia’s Test line-up after being named in the 14-man squad for the two matches against Pakistan.

Cameron Bancroft, who was dropped after two Ashes Tests, has also been called up after his late inclusion to the Australia A side while the uncapped Michael Neser has been included as another seam-bowling option for a squad that covers both a day Test in Brisbane and a day-night Test in Adelaide. It was announced earlier in the day that Will Pucovski had asked not to be considered for selection as he manages his mental health.

Burns’ recall means Marcus Harris, who was the incumbent opener having played the last three Ashes Tests, loses his place while Usman Khawaja has paid the price for a poor start to the domestic season having been dropped in England.

Harris managed just 58 runs in six innings after replacing Bancroft during the Ashes and though he his form has been steady at the start of the domestic season with a century, which came on a featherbed at Junction Oval in Melbourne, and two half-centuries he has been cut.

Burns failed twice in the Australia A match against Pakistan in Perth but the selectors, Trevor Hohns and Justin Langer, have opted to return to a player who has four centuries in 16 Tests including 180 in his most recent outing against Sri Lanka in February. A stint with Lancashire was cut short by post viral fatigue syndrome and though he returned for the Australia A tour of England – and scored a century – he was left out of the Ashes squad.

Head was part of Australia A’s collapse to 9 for 57, but a century in the previous round of Sheffield Shield has been enough for a swift return.

Bancroft has come up on the rails to earn his place after a lean start to the season for Western Australia and not initially being included in the Australia A side until Nic Maddinson withdrew for mental health reasons. However, after Australia A subsided on the second day in Perth he top-scored with 49 from No. 6 and has the versatility to bat in any position among the top order if required.

Neser, who was part of the Ashes squad, has been rewarded for a strong start to the season and will push for the third pace-bowling slot alongside Mitchell Starc, who has been in outstanding form for New South Wales, and James Pattinson although one of the latter two will be favoured to join Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood at the Gabba. However, Neser’s impressive performance with the pink ball against Pakistan A in Perth could put him in contention for the day-night Test in Adelaide and he has effectively taken Peter Siddle’s position.

Mitchell Marsh, who took the No. 6 slot at The Oval in September and claimed a maiden five-wicket haul, was not in contention for this squad having broken his hand punching the dressing room wall at the WACA last month.

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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