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An opportunity for Cameron Bancroft to improve chances of a Test comeback

A strong performance for Australia A against New Zealand A could vault him up the pecking order

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
Cameron Bancroft made his 20th first-class century, Victoria vs Western Australia, Sheffield Shield, Junction Oval, October 17, 2022

Cameron Bancroft made 945 runs in the previous Sheffield Shield season  •  Getty Images

One of the most interesting aspects of the upcoming Australian cricket season is the identity of David Warner's successor at the top of the order in the Test team.
It remains to be seen whether that vacancy will need filling against Pakistan in mid-December or against West Indies a month later. Warner wants to retire at the SCG, his home ground, in the first week of January and while that is probably how it plays out, it's not yet certain.
Given the recent hierarchy, it would appear Cameron Bancroft, last season's leading Sheffield Shield run-scorer by a distance, is currently no higher than third in line; Marcus Harris was the reserve batter through the Ashes and much of the last 18 months, while Matt Renshaw is also back in the mix. A four-match stint for Somerset early in the English season was a struggle for Bancroft; he averaged 19.57 and also had his off stump poleaxed by Stuart Broad, but the argument can be made that he is unfortunate not to be higher in the running.
Bancroft now has the opportunity to rekindle last season's form having been selected in the Australia A side to face New Zealand A in two four-day games in Brisbane and Mackay over the next fortnight. Harris has been rested after his time on the road and Renshaw will only feature in the one-dayers which follow - a sign, perhaps, that the selectors feel confident in knowing their credentials, but runs for Bancroft in this series and the first six Sheffield Shield matches before the Test summer begins could still be persuasive.
Bancroft is aware of the opportunity but is determined for it not to become a distraction.
"I feel like I've been around it my whole career. The amount of times I would have been talked about to be a potential selection is a lot," he told ESPNcricinfo ahead of the opening game against New Zealand A. "Hopefully I can draw on those times and those experiences to just focus on what I can do for myself and the teams I'm playing for.
"If you can do that everything else will take care of itself. It's not easy to do, obviously, everyone has aspirations and wants things. But if you can do that, stay in the moment, that's what's important. Regardless of the opportunities that were coming up in the Australian team, it never once changed how I would have wanted to approach last season.
"Last year was good and I probably gave myself an opportunity to get selected - it didn't quite happen but that doesn't change the drive for me to still be excellent in what I do. I feel if I stick to that then opportunities, I'm sure, will present themselves moving forward."
Bancroft's ten-match Test career has two parts. The first was brought to an abrupt halt by the ball-tampering scandal in 2018 after he had shown glimpses of being up to the challenge. After marking his return from the ban by batting for 621 balls against New South Wales, he was recalled for the 2019 Ashes but only lasted two matches because his technique was picked apart.
However, he was selected for the home series against Pakistan despite lean Shield returns. In the end he didn't play, finished the season with an average of 15.92, and was dropped by Western Australia. He began the climb back from there and found career-best form in Western Australia's Sheffield Shield title defence last summer, scoring 945 runs with four centuries.
"Like to think I've tried to learn from the past," Bancroft said. "[Last season] I just tried to be really consistent with my method and with how I was analysing things. As an opener you are always going to get a good ball, sometimes the ball is going to move, it's going to be challenging. Feel like that worked well for me last season and hopefully it's something I can keep building on."
Bancroft continues to work closely Justin Langer as well as Beau Casson, Western Australia's batting coach, while for the Australia A series he will have his state head coach Adam Voges in charge of the side.
"I idolised JL [Langer] as a player and he had a big influence on me when he coached WA," Bancroft said. "I felt like I wanted that edge that he brings in his personality and wanted to be in the presence of that. We have regular contact. He's a brilliant coach and I love what he contributes to my game.
"[Beau's] influence on my batting has been really awesome. He's got a really special way with words and knowing what to say, when to say it, to get the best out of you. I find Cass is someone to lean on. I'm really lucky that those two coaches communicate with each other and it certainly makes my life easier when I'm looking to maintain and improve things in my game."
Bancroft turns 31 in November, an age when batters are often considered to be coming into their prime. "There's always examples in cricket where you mature and it kind of works for you," he said. "Like to think the older I get the wiser I become, and you can use that to play better. I want to play Test cricket again. Think there's still plenty of time and opportunity."
Australia A four-day squad Wes Agar, Cameron Bancroft, Jordan Buckingham, Ben Dwarshuis, Caleb Jewell, Campbell Kellaway, Matthew Kuhnemann, Nathan McAndrew, Nathan McSweeney, Joel Paris, Jimmy Peirson, Mitch Perry, Josh Philippe, Mark Steketee, Mitchell Swepson, Tim Ward
New Zealand A four-day squad Muhammad Abbas, Adi Ashok (second game only), Tom Bruce (capt), Leo Carter, Josh Clarkson, Henry Cooper, Jacob Duffy, Cam Fletcher, Dean Foxcroft (second game only), Mitch Hay, Scott, Kuggeleijn, Will O'Rourke, Ajaz Patel, Brett Randell, Sean Solia

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo