Domain Tests v Sri Lanka

Bat-off could decide Test batting spots

Plenty to play for at the tour match in Hobart for a quartet of batters eyeing a Test place

Sam Ferris

10 January 2019, 04:35 PM AEST

Justin Langer fires up at press conference

Australia coach Justin Langer has welcomed the pressure a 'bat-off' brings between Test squad batsmen Joe Burns, Matt Renshaw, Marnus Labuschagne and Will Pucovski.

The quartet are part of the Cricket Australia XI side that will face Sri Lanka in a three-day, pink ball tour match in Hobart from January 17, which now serves as a potential selection trial for the first Domain Test against Sri Lanka at the Gabba.

The four batsmen appear to be vying for three spots in the top six, with Marcus Harris, Usman Khawaja and Travis Head likely to retain their places.

The composition of the batting order could go a number of ways, with Burns or Renshaw opening alongside Harris, Burns batting in the middle order with Labuschagne or Pucovski making his Test debut after just eight first-class games. 

Langer liked the idea of a bat-off in the hope it mimics the intensity of what his players will face in the cauldron of Test match cricket.

"It’s against Sri Lanka and under lights, you could say it’s a bat-off and that’s great," Langer said. 

"If people think there’s pressure in that that’s great because when you get to Test cricket there’s a lot more pressure than batting for a spot in the team."

Pucovski bolts into Test squad to play SL

However, Langer has issued a word of warning.

The coach urged his players not to look to far ahead and used recalled opener Renshaw as an example of how thinking about what the future might bring can prove disastrous.

Renshaw was the incumbent Test opener heading into last summer's Ashes series, but a lean run with the bat and the rise of Cameron Bancroft saw the Queenslander dropped for the series.

History repeated to a degree this season, when an opening at the top of the order presented itself only for the 22-year-old to suffer a dip in form and see Harris make his Test debut in Adelaide. 

"In the lead-up to the Ashes (last summer) he (Renshaw) probably got a bit sidetracked about getting selected for the Ashes, in the lead-up to this India tour he probably got a bit sidetracked by getting selected and what happens, we’ve been there," Langer said.  

"I had dinner with Steve Waugh the other night we talked about a young Steve Waugh – when you get sidetracked by the future or selection you forget to keep your eyes on the ball and be good at what you are which is a batsman. 

"We know Matt is a good player and a great lesson should be learned for young batsmen, think about now and the future will look after itself. 

"No different to that CA XI, it’s a great opportunity for guys to think about that game and selection will look after itself. 

"If they sidetracked by getting selected in the Test team then the chances of them performing are lessened. 

"That’s mental toughness, the sort of thing we like to see – that the guys are learning lessons and performing when all different pressures come on."

Domain Test Series v Sri Lanka

Australia: Tim Paine (c/wk), Josh Hazlewood (vc), Joe Burns, Pat Cummins, Marcus Harris, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Will Pucovski, Matt Renshaw, Mitchell Starc, Peter Siddle

Sri Lanka: Dinesh Chandimal (c), Dimuth Karunaratne, Lahiru Thirimanne, Kusal Mendis, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Dhananjaya de Silva, Roshen Silva, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Kusal Perera, Dilruwan Perera, Lakshan Sandakan, Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Pradeep, Lahiru Kumara, Dushmantha Chameera, Kasun Rajitha

CA XI: Joe Burns (c), Kurtis Patterson (vc), Scott Boland, Jake Doran (wk), Jon Holland, Marnus Labuschagne, Michael Neser, Will Pucovski, Jason Sangha, Matt Renshaw, Chris Tremain

Jan 17-19: Tour match, CA XI v SL, Hobart (D/N)

Jan 24-28: First Test, Gabba (D/N)

Feb 1-5: Second Test, Canberra