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October 28, 2012
Matthew Wade has been confirmed as Australia's first-choice Test wicketkeeper but Brad Haddin remains a "player of significant interest", according to the national selector John Inverarity. Wade was named in a 12-man squad to take on South Africa in the first Test, starting at the Gabba on November 9, and there were no surprises in the group, with Mitchell Starc included and Pat Cummins, who has not played first-class cricket for nearly a year, left out.
The selectors chose four fast men - Peter Siddle, Ben Hilfenhaus, James Pattinson and Starc - along with the offspinner Nathan Lyon, and the main question in the lead-up to the Test will surround the final make-up of the attack. There were no changes to the top six with the opener Ed Cowan given a chance to make the position his own, after beginning his Test career with encouraging but not outstanding performances against India and West Indies over the past year.
The major decision for Inverarity and his panel was whether to give the gloves to Wade, 24, who was wicketkeeper for the tour of the West Indies in April, or return to the veteran Haddin, 35. Inverarity said both men had made compelling cases for inclusion and while Wade had won his place for the Gabba Test, Haddin, who still holds a Cricket Australia contract, remained in the frame for future international selection.
Australia squad for first Test
"Matthew came into the Australian ODI team in February and has since acquitted himself especially well," Inverarity said. "Matthew and Brad both went to the West Indies; Matthew as our preferred ODI and T20 player and Brad as our incumbent and preferred Test match keeper. As is widely known Brad returned to Australia early in the tour due to family circumstances and as a consequence Matthew was our Test keeper for the three Test matches.
"He kept and batted very well and made a match-defining brilliant century in the second innings of the third and final Test against West Indies. Since then he has played and gained valuable experience in England, the UAE and Sri Lanka. As a young player, getting better by the month, he is thoroughly deserving of his retention. While Matthew has been retained as the Test keeper, Brad remains a player of significant interest."
The selectors decided against including Cummins, 19, although he is likely to be around the squad in Brisbane to prepare him for a potential place in the side later in the series. Injuries and short-form commitments have meant Cummins has not played a first-class match since his Test debut in Johannesburg last November, and with Siddle and Pattinson fit again after missing Australia's most recent Tests in the Caribbean, the selectors decided there was no reason to rush Cummins.
"We didn't feel as though Pat Cummins was ready to play a Test match," Inverarity said. "We hope he'll be ready to play a Sheffield Shield match soon, and then he's likely to come on the radar for perhaps the third Test in Perth. That's not speculating that he'll be selected for that, but he'll be ready to be in contention at that stage.
"The last Test match that Australia played, the third Test in the West Indies last April, included Ryan Harris. Ryan is continuing his rehabilitation from injury and is unavailable. Peter Siddle and James Pattinson have recovered especially well from the injuries that rendered them unavailable for that last Test in West Indies. In fact, they have been enjoying an ideal preparation for the first Test in Brisbane having played in three Sheffield Shield games with another one to come later this week."
The squad will assemble in Brisbane on Monday and will have three days of training ahead of the first Test. Two Sheffield Shield matches begin on Friday but the New South Wales v Queensland game at Allan Border Field does not start until Saturday and the Tuesday finish means some Test players might miss the final day of the match in order to prepare for the Test.
"I'm definitely playing the Shield game and I'm not sure if I'm playing three days or four," Australia's captain Michael Clarke said. "I think the plan is it will be an individual case, if NSW are batting on day four it'd be silly for the batters to be pulled out to go into camp.
"We're very lucky we're playing in Brisbane so once we finish we can go into camp, but in saying that, if a bowler has bowled a lot in the first innings I think it would be silly to overload them leading into a Test match. Pat Howard's on to that, the plan at the moment is to pull everybody out, but I know he'll make sure he assesses once we get closer to day four."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Brydon Coverdale
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