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While the focus remains firmly on David Warner’s ever diminishing Test average as he looks set to be named in Australia’s first Test team for the series against Pakistan, it is another defining statistic separating the veteran opener from his possible replacements.
Warner, 37, has a strike rate of 70, the best in the current Australian team, whereas the openers in state cricket considered most likely – Western Australia’s Cameron Bancroft (43 in 10 Tests), Victoria’s Marcus Harris (46 in 14 Tests) and Queensland’s Matthew Renshaw (42 in 14 Tests) – can struggle to move the scoreboard. All three hopefuls have Test averages is the 20s from prior opportunities.
The great fear is that partnering any of these players with Australia’s anchor, Usman Khawaja, who turns 37 this month, will see the Test team scoring slowly. Khawaja has a Test strike rate of 49 and since his reincarnation as a prolific opening batsman averaging 61, he scores at 46 runs per hundred balls.
After being Australia’s leading run-scorer in their victorious World Cup campaign, Warner has Ponting’s unequivocal backing, despite the aggressive left-hander’s average falling from almost 49 to 44 since Pakistan last toured four years ago.
Warner has averaged more than 29 in just one of his last six Test series thanks to an epic 200 during last year’s Boxing Day Test, the only century he has scored in his past nine series. He has named the third Test against Pakistan as his last, with a farewell at the SCG in the new year.
“I think he deserves to be there at the start of the summer, but then it’s up to him,” Ponting told SEN radio on Thursday. “I don’t think anyone can ever be guaranteed that sort of a run in and no one can be guaranteed the fairytale retirement either, so if he scores runs in the first few games, then he’ll most likely get the send-off that he’s after.”
Of the 59 Australians to score 2000 Test runs or more, only Adam Gilchrist (82), Clem Hill (76) and Victor Trumper (72) have a better strike rate than Warner. Travis Head is sixth on that list of Australia’s most rapid strikers with 64. Matthew Hayden is 60 while Don Bradman and Ricky Ponting struck at 59. Marnus Labuschagne has a strike rate of 53 and Steve Smith 54.
Bancroft was the runaway Sheffield Shield leading runs scorer last season with 945 at an average of 59 including four centuries. His strike rate was 45.
This season Bancroft is topping the Shield run table again heading into the Big Bash break with 512 runs at 57, but his strike rate of has slipped to 39. During WA’s current match against Queensland he scored seven from 30 balls.
Renshaw has 342 Shield runs this season at 47 and a strike rate of 47, scoring 37 in 103 balls during his most recent innings, against WA, while Harris has 282 at 31 and a strike rate of 43. He scored three and six during the current match against South Australia.
Usman Khawaja has a Test average of 61 opening the battingCredit: Reuters
If Australia were to ignore like-for-like and simply pick their next best batsman when Warner exits stage left, it would be Cameron Green, who averages 53 in the Shield with a strike rate of 54. Labuschagne could move up to open with Smith at No.3. Pushed out of the Test side by Mitch Marsh during this year’s Ashes, Green averages 34 in Test cricket with a strike rate of 47.
But at age 24 and almost a decade younger than much of the team, Green is considered a big part of Australian cricket’s future.
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