Captain's call
noun a decision made by a political or business leader without consultation with colleagues.

The Macquarie Dictionary's reigning Word of the Year - "captain's call" - was inspired by former prime minister Tony Abbott, who was famous for them. Perhaps the most notorious example was his decision to reinstate Australian knighthoods and make Prince Philip one of the first recipients. In cricket, as in politics, the leader holds significant sway, though a true captain's call - a decision without consultation - is only really possible on the field.

Still, Nic Maddinson's selection as Australia's new Test No. 6 last month felt like cricket's off-field equivalent of a captain's call. Steven Smith is not on the selection panel and can therefore not choose his team without consultation, but he can advise the selectors of his preferences. In the lead-up to this Test, Smith admitted that he had done so ahead of Adelaide, and spoke in favour of Maddinson for his ability to "take the game away from the opposition".

As Smith walked off the Gabba on Friday with 130 runs in his pocket and Australia's total on 4 for 323, he crossed paths with Maddinson, who was walking out to replace him. At Adelaide Oval, against South Africa, Maddinson had come to the crease under lights at what was widely regarded to be a difficult time to bat. He was bowled for a 12-ball duck by Kagiso Rabada. At the Gabba, he began his innings mid-afternoon, with a big score on the board: a fine time to take the game away from Pakistan.

Instead, it looked like the weight of the world was on Maddinson's shoulders. He felt bat on his first two deliveries, defending Wahab Riaz. He prodded tentatively to the next delivery, his first against legspinner Yasir Shah. Azhar Ali dropped one of the easier chances possible for a fielder under the helmet at short leg. Maddinson may have wondered if this was his lucky day.

When he got off the mark off his fifth ball, turned behind square leg for a single off Yasir, Maddinson's partner Peter Handscomb gave him a smile. It was as if Handscomb was saying "it'll get easier from here". Like Maddinson, Handscomb had debuted in Adelaide, but his initiation was more memorable: 54 in the first innings and one run - the winning run - in the second. What Maddinson wouldn't have given to strike that single himself in Adelaide, to ease his nerves.

But Maddinson didn't get a second innings in Adelaide, and had to wait for a new series and new opposition to bat for a second time in Test cricket. When it came, he made just a single run before flashing tensely outside off and missing, and then edging behind off Wahab. Maddinson walked off looking sheepish, knowing that his chances could be running out. Hoping that here, unlike in Adelaide, he would bat in the second innings.

If Maddinson has looked nervous as a Test batsman, Handscomb has appeared nerveless. There may be anxiety among those who feel that his deep stance makes him vulnerable every ball, but Handscomb never seems fazed. He waits for the ball and dabs it away, his cuts sometimes later than the thylacine. Handscomb knows his game and what works, and has transferred that seamlessly to Test cricket.

Against Yasir, Handscomb's footwork was exemplary: sometimes forward, sometimes back, and enough of both to cast doubt in the bowler's mind. Particularly impressive was the way he danced down the pitch to Yasir and lifted him perfectly over long-on for a risk-free six. This occurred only eight minutes before tea, but there was no thought from Handscomb of playing for the break. It also took him to 97, and there was no sign of the nervous nineties. He raced through the nineties in seven deliveries, his maiden Test century arriving with a drive through cover-point for four off Mohammad Amir.

Handscomb's temperament seems a natural fit for Test cricket, and he is not overawed by the occasion. His piling up of 215 in a Sheffield Shield round full of Test auditions, while other contenders around the country failed, showed he can handle pressure.

Australia's selectors could hardly be happier with Handscomb, whose footwork marks him out as a key batsman for Australia's upcoming Test tour of India. Maddinson will be doing well to make that tour, for the expected return of Shaun Marsh from injury will likely force a batsman out of the top six - perhaps as soon as the Boxing Day Test. Maddinson may get another innings in Brisbane but given Pakistan's collapse late on day two, there is every chance he won't.

Australia's new opener, Matt Renshaw, has been a success. Their new No.5, Handscomb, has been an even greater triumph. But what of the new No.6? Smith is right: Maddinson can take the game away from the opposition. The question is whether he'll get another chance to prove it.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale