Warner, Pattinson, Copeland poised for inclusion
David Warner, James Pattinson and Trent Copeland loom as the chief beneficiaries of the injury drama enveloping the Australian team and its new selection panel as preparations are made for the announcement of the summer's first Test squad.
John Inverarity, the national selector, will name his 12 for the Brisbane match against New Zealand on Saturday, and is likely to name Warner to open the batting in place of Shane Watson, the young Victorian quick Pattinson for Pat Cummins, and Trent Copeland as the bowler of long spells to cover for the absence of both Watson and Mitchell Johnson.
Ben Hilfenhaus, much improved this summer after a poor Ashes series in 2010-11, is also expected to find his way into the squad, with the captain Michael Clarke and his fellow selectors to determine the right balance for the Gabba once the team assembles in Brisbane.
Copeland and Pattinson both bowled handily in their respective matches on Friday, Pattinson claiming 4-96 for Australia A against the New Zealand tourists, while Copeland delivered 11 tidy overs for New South Wales against Western Australia on a rain curtailed day one of a Sheffield Shield match. He may be taken out of the match early in order to arrive in Brisbane with the rest of the squad on Sunday evening.
Warner cracked a fluent 65 against the visitors in Brisbane, and is the most obvious inclusion having been Australia's reserve batsman on each of its last two tours to Sri Lanka and South Africa. Having played only 11 first-class matches, Warner has been pushed towards a baggy green due to an outstanding talent that first emerged via Twenty20 cricket.
"[Warner] would be the obvious one. He's been the spare batter on the last couple of trips," the batsman Ricky Ponting said of Warner. "He went to Sri Lanka when I returned home for the birth of my daughter and was the standby batsman again last week. He's been in pretty rare form of late as well.
"His last few Shield games, he's scored a lot of runs. And whenever he's played in Twenty20 or one-dayers he's done a pretty good job. He's been able to turn his career around pretty quickly, looks like he's the sort of guy who's going to be able to step up to the next level. We're all excited to see him play."
Ponting said the 21-year-old Pattinson had benefited greatly from time spent with the Australian team on tour. He was omitted from the Test squad for South Africa due to Cummins' rapid rise, but has been considered a highly talented pace prospect for some time, first travelling with the national squad to India in 2010.
"He's one that has been around our group for a while," Ponting said. "Probably a little bit unlucky not to be in the Test squad on the last trip to SA but he made room for Patty and we know what Patty's done the last couple of weeks.
"James is a terrific young bloke and a very good bowler and his record for Victoria is getting better and better. The time that he's spent around older, wiser heads coaching-wise and playing-wise has probably held him in good stead."
Pattinson would likely be cast in the role of speedy aggressor, with the steadier Copeland, Siddle and perhaps Hilfenhaus to support him. All Australia's likely inclusions will be aided by the buoyant mood the team carried home from Johannesburg, following a dramatic victory to square the Test series.
"That's stuff that you can't re-create, stuff you can only have around your team by getting through that tough situation," Ponting said. "If you look back through Australian cricket's history through the last 10 or 12 years, one of the traits of that great team was it didn't matter how far down it was, it always had the belief that it could pick itself up and then quite often turn very negative parts of games into very positive ones and then go on and win Test matches.
"That's what we've probably felt we did in that second Test in Johannesburg. Confidence comes from winning games and a different level of confidence comes from winning games that you're almost down and out in. That was a great result for us as a group and, certainly, for a lot of the younger guys who probably haven't been there and experienced it before even in Shield cricket they mightn't have done that. That's stuff that you can't replace and stuff that will always be good around a cricket team."
Probable Test squad: Michael Clarke (capt), David Warner, Phillip Hughes, Usman Khawaja, Ricky Ponting, Michael Hussey, Brad Haddin (wk), Trent Copeland, Peter Siddle, Ben Hilfenhaus, Nathan Lyon, James Pattinson.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo