Australian Test captain Tim Paine said he was thrilled to see the likes of Marcus Harris and Usman Khawaja scoring runs while stopping short of guaranteeing that Travis Head would be nailed on for the number five spot in the Ashes batting line-up.
“The pleasing thing in the last couple of Shield games or the start of the Shield season has been the guys that you would like, or that have been talked about to be in the frame for those opening spots or that number five/six spot, have all be scoring runs and making George Bailey’s job more difficult,” Paine said on SEN Radio.
When asked if Head, who smoked a brilliant double century in the Marsh Cup just a few weeks after a 163 in the Sheffield Shield, was most likely to bat number five in the first Test, Paine said he was “one of the guys.”
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“Heady started the season on fire, Usman the same – I don’t know if anyone’s an absolute front-runner at the moment.
“I think his [Khawaja’s] average in Test cricket in Australia is unbelievably good as well, so his record on home soil is unbelievable and it’s great to have such an experienced, quality player like him in good form.
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“Travis Head’s a younger, sort of exciting attacking player that you can throw in at six and he can change the momentum of a game really quickly. So those two in one of those middle-order spots, both bring a lot of quality.
“Marcus Harris, he’s been dominant for Victoria at the top of the order for a couple of years now. He went over and played county cricket and scored an absolute mountain of runs and he’s come back and started the season really well. He’s certainly putting his hand up with Will Pucovski being unavailable.”
At the other end of the line-up, Paine said that Mitchell Swepson was probably next in line as a red ball spinner, but would have to bide his time behind others in the short-form teams.
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“Sweppo’s probably going to have to wait a bit longer … I think we’ll see a bit more of Sweppo in the coming years, but certainly in white ball, he’s going to have to bide his time.”
Swepson is firmly behind Adam Zampa in the T20 pecking order – the latter taking a superb five-for overnight against Bangladesh.
“He’s been an excellent performer in white ball cricket for a long time, and for the Melbourne Stars,” Paine said of Zampa.
“He’s going to be critical in us going deeper in this World Cup.”