Sport Cricket Settled Australians chase away Test success

Settled Australians chase away Test success

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Australia are no longer a team in transition, with selectors having all but settled on their squad for the upcoming Test tour of New Zealand.

Darren Lehmann insists there will be no experimentation or resting of players for the series finale against West Indies, which starts at the SCG on Sunday.

Steve Smith and his teammates are fully focused on completing a clean sweep of their current three-Test bout.

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But preparations for the trip across the Tasman are in full swing for team management, with Lehmann noting away success is the only way his side can claim to be the best in the world.

The Test retirements of Michael Clarke, Chris Rogers, Brad Haddin, Shane Watson, Ryan Harris and Mitchell Johnson this year raised many questions.

Most notably, who will step up?

Darren Lehmann
Coach Darren Lehmann says the squad is all but settled. Photo: Getty

Clashes with rising force New Zealand at Wellington and Christchurch in February will provide more answers.

It’s expected Australia will send 13 or 14 men across the Tasman for the series, most of which pick themselves.

Selecting a touring party has rarely been such a straightforward task for Lehmann and chairman of selectors Rod Marsh.

“It’s pretty close I would think. You’d have to speak to the chairman more so than me,” Lehmann said.

“But from where I sit it’s all pretty good.

“It’s really just making sure they all get through it, seeing how they perform in Sydney and then away we go.”

Injuries to Mitchell Starc (ankle), Pat Cummins (back) and Nathan Coulter-Nile (shoulder) have tested the country’s fast-bowling depth.

But there remains a clear pace pecking order – Scott Boland remains next cab off the rank.

“He’s got some pace, hits the deck hard and has been very impressive around the group,” Lehmann said.

The batting order is particularly settled.

The top five have scored a stack of runs this summer, while allrounder Mitch Marsh’s impressive bowling will ensure he stays in the XI.

“It’s pleasing to have the six going really well and obviously Shaun Marsh (as a reserve batsman),” Lehmann said.

Getty
Shaun Marsh was dropped for the second Test against the Windies after his 182. Photo: Getty

“They pretty much pick themselves.”

Shaun Marsh scored 182 in the first Test at Hobart but must now bide his time.

“He’ll just have to wait. The bonus of having someone in form on the sidelines is it puts pressure on the top six to perform,” Lehmann said.

Meanwhile, Australia are within striking distance of the No.1 Test ranking because of their own form and top-ranking South Africa’s struggles against England in Durban.

“You’ve got to win away from home and we’ve got to start doing that. We won’t get to No.1 if we don’t win away from home,” Lehmann said.

“Our big challenge is to win away from home.

“We play pretty well at home but to play well away from home is pretty important.”

The squad will travel to Sydney on New Year’s Eve, where they will be joined by left-arm spinner Steve O’Keefe.

Lehmann reiterated that O’Keefe was being strongly considered but the dead rubber was no experimental Test.

“We’ve done that in the past. We’ve tried a few things in the last Test and come unstuck,” he said.

-AAP

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