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Test incumbent axed; sandpaper trio recalled

MORE than half the team that played in Australia's last Test will be watching the Ashes opener from the sidelines with sweeping selection changes a signal of intent in the hunt to break an 18-year England hoodoo.

The unprecedented return of three players from suspensions, changes to the bowling line-up and the middle order have turned the Test team on its head.

Cameron Bancroft looks set to displace Marcus Harris, who could feel hard done by after playing all six Tests in the home summer, at the top of the order which could make six new faces from the team that toppled Sri Lanka in February.

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Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft during slips practice. Picture: Getty
Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft during slips practice. Picture: Getty

Harris did fitness work on Tuesday while Bancroft batted with Smith and Warner in the nets, signalling the Victorian was out.

The casualty also list includes man-of-the match in Canberra Mitchell Starc, and century makers Joe Burns (180) and Kurtis Patterson (114 not out), with the two batsmen not even in the 17-man Ashes squad.

Jhye Richardson is also out after suffering a shoulder injury while Marnus Labuschange looks likely to be displaced in the batting line-up by Matthew Wade.

Australian coach Justin Langer also lauded the potential of veteran seamer Peter Siddle to be a "real handful' on the Edgbaston wicket which could mean he, James Pattinson and Pat Cummins lead the bowling charge.

The team won't be confirmed until match-day but Langer, a long-time supporter of Bancroft, lauded the opener who is set to play his first Test after being banned for nine months for his role in the ball-tampering scandal.

"It would be a great story if he comes back, from where he's come from," Langer said.

"His learnings over the past 18 months. He's gone away, he's played good Shield cricket … he's averaged 40-odd for Durham, he played really well last week, he brings energy to the team."

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"His development over the past 18 months after what happened in Cape Town has been extraordinary, we are that proud of him.

"The work he has done on himself has been outstanding. He's a tough kid, physically as tough as anyone.

"If he gets the nod, he'll be very excited about playing for Australia again."

To put the mass changes into context, even in Australia's period of flux in recent times there hasn't been such a vicious swinging of the axe.

At the start of last summer, Australia brought in four new faces for their series opener against India - the same number of changes following the Cape Town Test the previous year.

 

Josh Hazlewood (R) and Mitchell Starc (L). Picture: AAP
Josh Hazlewood (R) and Mitchell Starc (L). Picture: AAP

 

Even when a trio of debutants came from the clouds amid an extraordinary mid-series carve up against South Africa, off the back of the Hobart disaster of 2016, it was a mere five new names on the teamsheet - including new batsmen Matthew Renshaw, Peter Handscomb and Nic Maddinson.

Langer conceded he didn't know how Bancroft would handle what's expected to be a raucous reception at Edgbaston, with boos following Steve Smith and David Warner around the World Cup as they also made their returns from suspension.

"I know what the reception is going to be, but there is nothing we can do about it," he said.

"That's OK. Every Ashes series is the same … it's really tough. That's the environment we are in.

"Steve and David had a good dress rehearsal during the World Cup. It will be no different during the Ashes.

"This is where you find out a lot of people. Heroes can come through Ashes series, because they are up for the fight."

News Corp Australia


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