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Over the next few days, Australia's selectors need to decide who should replace Ricky Ponting in the Test team for the series against Sri Lanka. ESPNcricinfo runs the rule over the leading candidates
December 4, 2012
Phillip Hughes, 24 (South Australia)
First-class career: 6783 runs at 45.52, 20 centuries
Sheffield Shield 2012-13: 518 runs at 51.80, 1 century
The man most likely to win a call-up, Hughes has form, Test experience and youth on his side. He has already shown that he can score runs at Test level - three centuries in his 17 Tests - but the jump up in class also exposed some of batting flaws. Last summer, he could not stop edging catches to the cordon when the fast men angled the ball across him and having been dropped from the Test side a couple of times already, if he wins a third chance he will need to provide more consistency. But the sheer volume of runs Hughes has scored - 20 first-class hundreds at the age of 24 is a remarkable tally - cannot be ignored, and he would be capable of slotting in at No.3. "I have probably been the most consistent player in Shield and one-day cricket this season," Hughes said on Tuesday. "And I know if I did get the nod, I would be very confident. I feel like I'm a lot better player than 12 months ago. I have worked on one thing ... but I'm not going to go into it. It has improved my game all around the park, I'm scoring in different areas and I feel like when the bowlers are bowling straighter, I can play my leg side shots a lot better than I did 12 months ago."
Usman Khawaja, 25 (Queensland)
First-class career: 4045 runs at 43.03, 11 centuries
Sheffield Shield 2012-13: 438 runs at 39.81, 1 century
Like Hughes, Khawaja has had a taste of Test cricket, and like Hughes he is expected to return to the outfit at some point. Also like Hughes, Khawaja moved from New South Wales during the off-season in a bid to reboot his career - Hughes moved to Adelaide, Khawaja to Brisbane. His 138 against Tasmania on a Bellerive Oval pitch that was a minefield for every other batsman was the standout innings of the Sheffield Shield so far this season, and he has another chance to impress the selectors when he captains the CA Chairman's XI against the Sri Lankans later this week. But aside from that one century, Khawaja's problem recently has been a struggle to turn his starts into triple figures. During his 2012 county season for Derbyshire and his Shield campaign this summer he has passed fifty 11 times, but only twice has gone on to score a century. All the same, Khawaja looks a long-term Test prospect and would add some steadiness to a top four that will feature two dashers, David Warner and Shane Watson.
Alex Doolan, 27 (Tasmania)
First-class career: 2311 runs at 39.16, 5 centuries
Sheffield Shield 2012-13: 409 runs at 58.42, 1 century
At the start of the season, few people would have expected Doolan to figure in discussions for the Test team. But his unbeaten 161 for Australia A against the South Africans in Sydney catapulted him into contention, and although he lost out to Quiney ahead of the Gabba Test, he will no doubt be talked about at meetings of John Inverarity's selection panel. A composed batsman with a sound technique, Doolan is enjoying his breakout season and a Test call-up would be more likely further down the track, if he continues to pile up the runs for Tasmania. Like Ponting, Doolan is from Launceston and his state captain George Bailey was impressed when Ponting and Doolan batted together earlier in the season against a powerful Victoria attack. "When those two were going together he didn't look outclassed; when I was batting with Ricky it felt like we were playing two different sports, but Dools and he were just on another level," Bailey said last month. "He is a classical player - quite beautiful to watch actually. It has been said a few times he looks a bit like Martin Love."
Rob Quiney, 30 (Victoria)
First-class career: 3101 runs at 36.48, 7 centuries
Sheffield Shield 2012-13: 68 runs at 22.66, 0 centuries
If the first-out, first-in argument was applied, Quiney would be the logical man to replace Ponting, having played in the first two Tests against South Africa. But his failures in those matches, particularly his pair in Adelaide, where he edged behind the wicket in both innings on a pitch that other batsmen adored, must have dropped him a few places down in the pecking order. The Australians liked his presence around the team and he offered some real dynamism in the field, but the likelihood is that if he is to earn another chance at Test cricket it will need to come through big runs at Shield level when the first-class season resumes after the Big Bash League.
Callum Ferguson, 28 (South Australia)
First-class career: 4295 runs at 36.09, 8 centuries
Sheffield Shield 2012-13: 463 runs at 42.09, 1 century
A serious knee injury suffered during the 2009 Champions Trophy final came at just the wrong time for Ferguson, who was establishing himself in the ODI side and showing the selectors the kind of technique that could work at Test level. He missed the entire 2009-10 summer due to the injury and had battled to regain his best form, until this season. Ferguson is second on the Shield run tally behind Hughes this summer, and is beginning to show the kind of consistency the selectors wanted from him. A call-up now is unlikely, but a big end to the summer will place him firmly back in the frame for Australia's tours of India and England.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Brydon Coverdale
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