Six contenders emerge for Australia batting order shake-up
AUSTRALIA will waste no time in moving on from its humbling Test series loss to focus on its two-match assignment against Sri Lanka.
As revealed by foxsports.com.au's Tom Morris, the squad is set to be named on Wednesday - 15 days before the first ball is bowled against the tourists on January 24.
Here are the contenders pushing for a spot in Australia's latest Test squad.
The Tasmania batsman is arguably in career-best batting form after making a blistering start to both the Sheffield Shield season and Big Bash league.
No player scored more than Wade before the competition's BBL-hiatus began mid-December. He made 571 runs at 63.44, including a masterful 137 against the Shield's best bowling attack, Victoria, which included Peter Siddle, Chris Tremain, Scott Boland and James Pattinson.
The fact Wade calls Hobart's Bellerive Oval his home ground only strengthens his credentials given the difficulty state batting sides have faced at the venue.
Teams have been bowled out for 81, 107, 136 and 167 at the ground this Shield season.
Wade has played 22 Tests for Australia, but hasn't been in the side since September 2017. He has since shared the gloves with Tim Paine to focus on being a specialist batsman. Wade is averaging 31.66 in this season's BBL.
Burns started slowly in this season's Shield, hurting his chances of a recall for the India series. But his performances started trending in the right direction up until the start of the BBL.
The Queensland opener averaged 70.67 in his past two Shield games, making scores of 96, 74, 24 not out and 18. He already has four half-centuries to his name this season and is averaging 47.20, although he is without a century.
But he has three of those in 14 appearances at Test level, while Australia has had none in five matches.
His last shot at Test level was in South Africa when he was called in as a replacement for the disgraced David Warner. Burns scored only four in his first innings, followed by 42 in the second.
The former Test opener has had a slow start to the season to date in the Shield, averaging 19.90 from 10 innings, with 199 runs and a highest score of 89.
However the 22-year-old does have a reasonable record at Test level, where he has amassed 636 runs at 33.47, with three half-centuries and a highest score of 184 from 11 matches.
More importantly, Renshaw knows how to bat time and leave good deliveries, which Australia's openers apart from Marcus Harris struggled to do against India.
Renshaw has not played for his country since the last Test in South Africa in April when he made scores of five and eight in his two innings, but many felt he deserved an opportunity on his home track after the concussion problems from a hit in the helmet that plagued his tour of the UAE.
Renshaw has been batting in the middle order for a stacked Brisbane Heat team in the BBL, which is not the ideal Test preparation for an opener, but everyone is in the same boat and he may relish a return to the longer format against Sri Lanka.
The fact the first Test is in Brisbane also works in the Queensland opener's favour.
Fresh off his suspension for ball-tampering, Bancroft would be one of the biggest gambles selectors could take.
He's played in only three top-flight matches in his return, and those came in the game's shortest format. There is also no opportunity for him to play the red-ball game before the series against Sri Lanka, and there's no knowing how he would handle returning to the scrutiny of international cricket so soon.
Nonetheless, Bancroft was performing admirably as Australia's opener before his moment of madness in Cape Town.
He brought up two half-centuries in that tour of South Africa, as well as making starts of 24, 38 and 26.
Marcus Harris had a similar record against India and has been lauded as a potential permanent opener. Bancroft's Test average after 14 innings is 30.92, and his first-class average 38.35.
There's no player in Australian cricket right now receiving support in higher places than Stoinis.
Shane Warne has relentlessly called for his promotion since November's ODIs against South Africa, and Mark Waugh has also added his support.
The case for Stoinis isn't one built around red-ball numbers, but rather sheer talent, confidence and form in limited-overs cricket.
Stoinis announced himself as arguably Australia's premier all-rounder in the ODIs against South Africa, in which he averaged 26.33 with the bat and took eight wickets at 15.12.
He proceeded to make scores of 33 not out and 25 not out in the T20Is against India before impressing in his return to the Shield. In his past two games he averaged 49.25 and took 4-112. He's also averaging 48.66 in the BBL.
Unfairly pigeonholed as a short-form specialist throughout his career, the middle-order batsman has had limited opportunities for Victoria in the Sheffield Shield this season.
Maxwell has played only twice for his state in the four-day game, making 126 runs from four innings at an average of 42 and a highest score of 57.
However, that is a healthy average in line with his first class mark of 41.10, with seven centuries and 21 half-centuries.
The 30-year-old has played seven Tests for his country, scoring 339 runs at an average of 26.07, with a highest score of 104.
Maxwell hasn't played a Test since September 2017 against Bangladesh, where he made 38 and 25 not out.
However he has shown he is committed to earning a place in the Ashes squad by shunning the riches of the Indian Premier League to play English county cricket. It might be time to reward that commitment with bringing one of Australia's most gifted batsmen back into the fold.
The Victorian paceman is far and away the best bowler in the Sheffield Shield season to date.
Boland has amassed 36 wickets at an average of 17.41, with two five-wicket hauls and best figures of 7-54.
The 29-year old has eight more scalps than the next best wicket-taker, teammate Chris Tremain.
Boland already has international experience, having taking 16 wickets in 14 one-day games for Australia, as well as three wickets in as many T20 games for his country.
Australia's pace attack looked tired against India and it might be time to give either Mitchell Starc or Josh Hazlewood, or both of them, a rest or a chance to regain their confidence and hunger at state level.
Boland may just be the man to reignite the Australian attack against Sri Lanka and appears to have timed his bid for Ashes selection to perfection.
In most other eras, and for most other teams, Tremain would already have a stack of Test appearances under his belt.
So strong and so consistent has the Victorian been in the Shield over the past three seasons, he would have been hard to deny. But unfortunately for Tremain, he has had Starc, Hazlewood and Pat Cummins for competition. The pace attack his been near-impenetrable, until now.
Starc has fallen out of form and Hazlewood is far from his best as well.
Tremain topped the wicket-taking charts in the last Sheffield Shield season (51 at 21.07) and took the most wickets over the past two seasons (93 at 20.12).
He's at the pointy end again this season, taking 28 at 23.60. Mitchell Johnson named Tremain as one uncapped bowler who could pose a threat to England in the Ashes, adding he would like to see him played against Sri Lanka.
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