<
>

Hilton Cartwright bolts into Boxing Day Test squad

Australia's selectors have pushed still further towards youth, ignoring Mitchell Marsh in order to draft his Western Australia team-mate Hilton Cartwright into the Boxing Day Test squad as all-round cover for a bowling attack heavily fatigued by their Gabba exertions.

Cartwright, who had already been included in the Chappell-Hadlee ODI squad to face New Zealand but did not play, is an allrounder whose virtues have been pushed by the interim selector Greg Chappell in particular, as part of the developmental Cricket Australia XI that first played in the Matador Cup two summers ago.

Last season he graduated to the Western Australia state side and performed strongly with the bat in the Sheffield Shield, something he has backed up this season to average 44.50 across 16 first-class matches. His bowling record is less notable, with a career tally of 15 first-class wickets at 41.93 and only four wickets at 74.75 in the current Shield campaign.

However, the acting selection chairman Trevor Hohns emphasised the desire for a batting allrounder to take a place in the top six, a role Marsh has been unable to adequately fill over time. The decision also means the incumbent No.6, Nic Maddinson, could face the axe after three Test innings of 0, 1 and 4 in Adelaide and Brisbane.

"The bowlers got through a high workload in Brisbane and although everyone has pulled up okay, on reflection we wanted to give ourselves the option of including an allrounder in Melbourne to ease that workload somewhat," Hohns said.

"To do that, we wanted a batting allrounder, someone to bowl seam-up and capable of batting in the top six as well, and after considering several names we came to the conclusion that Hilton fits that bill. We have seen plenty of him, he has performed well this season and we believe that if called upon he will do an excellent job."

Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood each bowled 56 overs during the win over Pakistan at the Gabba, which for both men was their biggest workload not only in a Test match but in any first-class game. Jackson Bird sent down 45 overs, his highest tally in a Test. As such, the selection shift away from an allrounder, which took place when Marsh was dropped following the first Test of the summer, has been rethought.

"It depends on what sort of wickets you play on," Australia's coach, Darren Lehmann, said after the win in Brisbane. "You would have probably liked to have an extra bowling option in this game but we went with the six batsmen, four bowlers and they got the job done, albeit a lot of work into our quicks."

Should Cartwright become Australia's 450th Test cricketer when the XI is confirmed for Boxing Day, it would mean an uncertain Test future for Maddinson. On debut at Adelaide Oval, Maddinson was bowled for a 12-ball duck by Kagiso Rabada, while at the Gabba he was dropped on 0, then caught behind for 1 in the first innings. In the second, he was caught hooking for 4 as Australia sought quick runs and a declaration.

"We've had two pink-ball Test matches, so red-ball Test coming up and we know he's a fine player," Lehmann said of Maddinson on Monday, before Cartwright was added to the squad. "He's just got to believe at this level. I actually thought he did a really good team thing the other day [in the second innings].

"I know there was some talk in the commentary and media that he probably could have gone up the order and done that, but Steve's really strong on keeping the batting order very similar. So he came in for two balls, tried to get the game moving as quickly as he could. So I disregard the second innings of this one, and we've got some red-ball cricket coming up, so I'm sure he'll do okay."

Another member of Australia's new-look side who will be keen to justify the faith of the selectors is wicketkeeper Matthew Wade, who replaced Peter Nevill ahead of the Adelaide Test. The selectors preferred Wade's batting fight down the order and although he scored two Test centuries in his previous incarnation in the baggy green, he has not made double figures since his recall.

Wade's work behind the stumps has also left a little to be desired. In Adelaide, he failed to move for a chance when Hashim Amla edged Mitchell Starc and first slip Matt Renshaw ultimately spilled the chance with his left hand. At the Gabba, Wade missed a stumping chance off Nathan Lyon when Sarfraz Ahmed had 31 in the first innings; he went on to make 59 not out. He also appeared to miss a possible catch when Yasir Shah tickled down leg off Starc late in Pakistan's chase.

"Obviously his batting ability, although he hasn't got any runs at the moment," Lehmann said when asked what Wade brought to the squad. "He's been working pretty hard with that. And his energy behind the stumps. He'd like to keep better obviously, but I thought he's improved his keeping out of sight in the last 12 to 18 months from where we were.

"Peter Nevill is obviously a very good keeper as well. It's a tight call whichever way you go. But Matthew's got the chance to nail down the spot and we'll see how he goes in Melbourne."