Few answers after lacklustre summer of Test cricket

The final wash-up of the Sydney Test is gurgling down the drain but the summer of Test cricket is not quite over as Australia prepare to head across the ditch for the return series against New Zealand.

After the six home Tests, it is hard to find an area where the hosts will feel they have moved definitively forward.

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The Kiwi challenge didn't quite meet up to the hype but, maybe if the third umpire could read a television screen, the series might have been squared. The jury will get a second look at the evidence come sittings in Wellington and Christchurch around Valentine's Day.

The West Indies were not close in any of the three contests and, as a result, Australian players had opportunities to pad their batting and bowling statistics rather than toughen up techniques and mindsets.

National interest: Joel Paris has been named in an Australian squad for the first time.
National interest: Joel Paris has been named in an Australian squad for the first time. Photo: Getty Images

As learning experiences go, it's hard to think of a less inspiring season.

Shaun Marsh will feel aggrieved at his omission from Test cricket but finally selectors realise that the longer form is not his main bag. He will find the white ball flying more in his trajectory and, with the T20 World Cup in March, his skills will still be required.


Brother Mitch remains an enigmatic Test No.6 but a sure-fire pick in the one-day team. His bowling remains his finer string. Perhaps his fatal stroke on Thursday can be glossed over as the result of a rehearsal for the Indian one-day internationals. It impressed few as an example of a batsman proving he can make it in Test cricket but the same shot will be applauded next week when the pyjamas are donned.

India will make a tougher contest of white-ball cricket than New Zealand or the West Indies made of the Tests and the blooding of tyro Joel Paris is a calculated investment as the retirement of Mitchell Johnson and the fragility of Mitchell Starc is hedged with a fellow leftie who curves the ball.

Paris has been a player of national interest since his under-19 days and his recent performances in all three forms suggest his future as an international won't be limited to limited overs.

Scott Boland, likewise, has been in outstanding form and, although he isn't a big new ball swinger of the white ball, he can reverse swing the old. He possesses some good changes of speed, useful velocity and a reliable yorker, all essential tools for a closer.

Spells against the batting power of this Indian team will provide a quality litmus test for both the novitiate seamers.

Kane Richardson returns three years after his ODI debut when umpire Marais Erasmus banned him for running on the pitch.

His role will be mainly to fill the middle overs after Josh Hazlewood (obviously not feeling as tired as some Cricket Australia support staff have been trying to make out) blasts away with the new ball.

With the new guard forming up it is hard to see George Bailey stepping on the podium in four years. The very much in-form Moises Henriques' untimely calf injury has given Bailey a reprieve in the short term just as his nasty head clash with Surrey teammate Rory Burns in the winter kept him out of that post-Ashes ODI series.

So some new boys get their chance and some old ones are returned, but the biggest surprise remains the continued omission of Nathan Lyon, apparently not a necessary ingredient for a winning formula.

The widely held assumption is that this squad will be a part of an ongoing experiment that exposes new players to international opponents to determine whether they have the right stuff or, if not, they can improve given the elite experience.

There is the short-term goal of winning each match and series – something Australian teams have always prided themselves on – and the long-term goal of having a match-hardened group of 16 to 20 players who can retain the 2019 World Cup.

Only the part-time spin of Glenn Maxwell has been included in this squad, which means the balance of a starting XI can play an extra batsman or an extra bowler depending on the conditions.

The likely end of Shane Watson's ODI career points directly to Mitch Marsh assuming the principal all-rounder's responsibility and Maxwell taking the second jack-of-all-trades spot.

Steve Smith may even roll some overs out if the pitches reveal some grip, which leads back to the lack of a specialist spinner at a time when all-rounders are seen as the panacea. Lyon has proven not just that he can be effective in all three forms but also be a match-winner, especially for NSW in the Matador Cup-winning team and for the Sixers in the Bash.

He takes wickets and keeps the scoreboard tight and, in modern white-ball games, getting batsmen out is the key to success. He can take the new ball if tactics dictate, he is an excellent fieldsman, although his nightwatchman's role has its limits in one-day games but, given that, he isn't the worst No.11 running around.

Lyon can add value to the ODI team. Perhaps as the experiment evolves, the theorist will include the Lyon protocol for further investigation.

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