Over the past three months, as the Australian cricket team has found new and exciting ways to disappoint the country, you have probably wondered who could possibly come in to stop the rot.
We all know about the young bowlers, mostly because they have all been given a crack over the past few years, but what about the batsmen? Surely we have got some new and exciting talent on the way through?
Of course we do. Perhaps not to the extent of 10 or 20 years ago, when Australia A was probably the second best cricket team in the world, but certainly enough to keep optimism up.
So before you completely give up on Test cricket in Australia, remember these names. Many of them will surely end up with a baggy green to their name at some point, and maybe some could be the long-term answer to the country’s batting problems.
23 years old, FC average 42.56
You probably first heard Kurtis Patterson’s name nearly five years ago now, when he debuted for New South Wales with an impressive century.
Seemingly a star on the rise, it took Patterson another two years to play his second first-class match as injury and form held him up. But when given a sustained chance last season, he took it.
Patterson topped New South Wales’ run charts last Shield season and at 23, now boasts an impressive average 42.56 with five first-class tons to his name.
That debut ton gave a good indication of what we would be in for with Patterson, who is a batsman who is capable of batting for long periods of time, but also able to up the pace when required — the last 55 runs of that debut ton came from just 25 balls.
A century in the first Shield match of the season against Queensland will be in selectors’ minds as they look for some in-form youth.
25 years old, FC average 38.71
Scoring a century in a Sheffield Shield final is a good measure if a player has the temperament and steel to play Test cricket. Peter Handscomb added this significant string to his bow in Victoria’s triumph last season.
Handscomb’s name has long been floating around among those of the brightest batting prospects in the country, even more since his wicketkeeping became less of a priority, and he is building a statistical case to support the calls.
Though his average has dipped below 40, his eight first-class centuries stand out, and he was the third-highest run scorer in the 2015/16 Shield season.
Perhaps even more importantly, Handscomb has captained Australia A and Victoria in the on day competition — if Australia is searching for a young batsman with the bottle to handle the biggest stage, Handscomb could be its man.
27 years old, FC average 37.81
Marcus Stoinis has already had a taste of international cricket with debuts in both ODI and T20 cricket, but those who know him say his Test ambitions remain most prominent.
A good 2015/16 Shield campaign put his name in five-day contention, with 659 runs and two centuries representing his best return in the white clothes for Victoria.
Also in his favour is his bowling ability, which could see Australian selectors — who we know love an all-rounder like nothing else — favour Stoinis over the other pure batsmen on the list.
But Stoinis is also the oldest player on this list, and those his limited-overs career is beginning to take off, there are others with more impressive first-class stats.
22 years old, FC average 33.39
Australian selectors like Travis Head, and are expecting big things from him in years to come. This faith has already been rewarded with 12 ODI caps, and the suggestion is a baggy green may not be far away.
Head may need to put a few more Shield runs on the board though, as an average of 33.39 is not representative of his talents. At only 22 years of age, he has plenty of developing to do still and his three Shield tons last season were impressive.
Like Handscomb, Head’s leadership ability has probably gone a long way to seeing him involved in the national team at such a young age. Head was South Australia’s youngest ever captain, and lead the team admirably to the Shield final in 2015/16.
Though his record still looks a little light on, he may still get the nod as the one to work on in the Test time for the future.
23 years old, FC average 37.22
Cameron Bancroft is desperately unlucky not to have received a baggy green already. He was named in the squad for Australia’s cancelled tour of Bangladesh, and narrowly missed out on selection to Joe Burns at the start of last summer.
Bancroft is seen as a long-term Australian opening batsman, with a temperament and technique that few at his age can match. His average does not set the world alight, but a slow start to his first class career is quickly being overwritten by a mountain of runs.
He scored 732 runs at 45.75 for Western Australia last Shield season, including three tons, but the way he scores his runs will be of most encouragement to selectors and fans alike.
Bancroft will almost certainly get an opportunity at the top of the Australian order sooner rather than later, and his grit and patience may see him win plenty of fans.
24 years old, FC average 48.96
Jake Lehmann was always going to be a topic of conversation as he rose through the South Australian ranks. That is always going to be the case when your dad is the coach of the national team.
But Lehmann has unquestionably let his bat do the talking, making an exceptional start to life in first-class cricket with five centuries from his first 18 matches in both Australia and England.
The latter is a point worth repeating — last winter, Lehmann went to England to play County cricket for Yorkshire. A batsman with some added exposure to the moving ball would be a welcome change in the Australian team at present.
Lehmann has sprung into contention relatively quickly, but is in terrific form and looks on the road to Test cricket. Given the current state of play, his debut could come sooner than expected.
24 years old, FC average 38.04
A few years ago, Nic Maddinson would have been close to the top of the list of young batsmen ready to make a breakthrough, but for whatever reason his stocks have slid somewhat.
A century to start this Sheffield Shield season has brought him back into the conversation, and his talent is too substantial to ignore.
Maddinson is a fast scorer for a top-order batsman, but in the domestic ODI competition this season showed he could be a more patient, grinding batsman when the situation calls for it.
A big Sheffield Shield campaign might be needed before he Maddinson leapfrogs a few other likely contenders, but he will never be far away from the selectors’ thoughts.
20 years old, FC average 41.09
He may be one for a bit further down the line, but if you are one of the many cricket fans fed up with the Australian team’s inability to produce fighting, resilient innings, then you are going to love Matt Renshaw.
In the age of T20 big-hitters, Renshaw is a young batsman built for the longest form of the game. An upside of his small stature as a youth was the importance he placed on developing a sound technique, and an ability to graft an innings.
Renshaw’s first Shield century, scored while still 19 years old, was a nine-hour, 395 ball 170. He’s an old-fashioned opener in an age of David Warner types, and is surely only going to get better.
A knee injury has slowed down the start of his 2016/17 season, but once that’s shrugged off we should all hope Renshaw continues to add runs to his tally because he could be a long-term solution to Australia’s batting fragility.
26 years old, FC average 44.39
There are two great shames about Chris Lynn’s career thus far — firstly that injury has struck him down repeatedly at the most inopportune times, and secondly that he is considered purely a T20 specialist.
Lynn’s Shield record is very good indeed, and while recurring shoulder problems have taken him out of the pubic spotlight in regards to Test selection, a return to fitness should hopefully put him right back in it.
You probably know he can hit the ball hard and far, as his player of the tournament award in BBL05 suggests, but he can bat long too. In a Shield match against Victoria last year, and with Queensland in deep strife at 3 for 7, Lynn compiled an incredible 250 off 329 balls to completely turn the match on its head and inspire a Bulls victory.
Sadly Lynn is not an answer to the current problems, but you should not forget him. Cross every finger and toe you have he can get fit in the near future, because he is a special talent.
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