Australia is facing a batting dilemma ahead of the First Test against India, with Joe Burns and Marcus Harris dismissed cheaply by India paceman Mohammed Shami in the lead-up match at the SCG.
Burns’ nightmare run continued on day three of the tour game, where he was out for one in his final knock before the first Test starts on Thursday.
Burns faced 21 balls and spent 39 minutes in the middle on Sunday before being trapped lbw by Shami.
Harris was out for five a day after being added to the Test squad, having inexplicably clipped the 16th delivery he faced straight to Prithvi Shaw at leg slip.
Burns has tallied 62 runs from nine first-class knocks this season, with the Queenslander’s confidence at an all-time low as he prepares to travel to Adelaide.
Chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns, who was in the stands watching Burns and Harris fall to Shami while opening for Australia A, was quickly on the phone after the paceman’s destructive opening spell.
Hohns and coach Justin Langer have so far only added Harris to an enlarged Test squad despite David Warner (groin) and Will Pucovski (concussion) both being ruled out.
Cameron Green remains in doubt for the first Test after suffering a concussion on Friday.
Allan Border, a former selector and captain, suggested Hohns’ panel would be doing a disservice to Burns if they retained the out-of-form batsman in the Test XI.
“He just doesn’t look like scoring a run,” Border said while commentating on Fox Sports. “If he just showed something.
“Even if he made 20-odd today, batted OK and got out to a good ball. Then you’d think we might stick with the incumbent.
“It’s a sad sight, seeing a bloke really struggling to find any sort of form.”
Burns looked tentative during Sunday’s brief stay at the crease, which came two days after he was out for a second-ball duck to Jasprit Bumrah in the same match.
“You can’t miss straight ones on middle stump,” Border said.
“That’s where Joe Burns is at with his technique at the moment, he’s just shot.”
Border backed Harris and Matthew Wade to open in the pink-ball Test, however that plan would be dependent on Green being passed fit for a game that starts six days after his head knock
Former Test opener Chris Rogers, who is part of Australia A’s coaching staff, sympathised with Burns.
“You can get to this point where you’re just putting so much pressure on yourself,” Rogers said.
“There is some pressure on him, no doubt. He’s not stupid. A lot of the time it’s just about letting go.”
Meanwhile, fellow fast bowler Josh Hazlewood is confident Mitchell Starc will be right to rip in to India’s batting lineup in Adelaide.
The left-armer is set to rejoin Australia’s squad on Monday after a period of compassionate leave due to a family illness.
Starc left the team after the first T20 against the Indians in Canberra last week but it was announced on Sunday the pace spearhead was ready to return.
Starc, who has snared 42 wickets at 19.23 in seven day-night matches for his country.
Hazlewood was in no doubt about the boost the news would bring to the entire team.
“Everyone knows his numbers with the pink ball are pretty special so we welcome him with open arms,” Hazlewood said.
If we’ve learned anything from this year it’s nothing goes to plan and we’re always struggling with the schedules and travel and different things.
“I’m sure this hiccup will be no different for Starkey.
“He’s a professional and would have been doing everything he could have over the last week … once he comes into camp he’ll jump straight in and be ready to go.”
Starc’s return is a change of tone for Australia after a build-up to the Border-Gavaskar series which has been marred by injury withdrawals and concerns.
It means Australia will head in to the opening Test with a full-strength attack including Starc, Hazlewood, vice-captain Pat Cummins and spinner Nathan Lyon.