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Marnus Labuschagne is firmly in the mix to open the batting for Australia, while Cameron Green could have a baggy green this week in a drastic shake-up for the first Test.
National selectors have little choice but to shuffle the deck after an openers’ crisis struck the Australians in the build up to the day-night Test against India.
David Warner is injured, his mooted replacement, Will Pucovski, is out with a concussion while incumbent opener Joe Burns is horribly out of form, averaging less than seven runs this season.
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A possible remedy is to bump up No.3 Labuschagne to open and make room in the middle-order for exciting all-rounder Green, if he’s fit to play having also suffered a mild concussion on Friday. The 21-year-old made 125 not out against India last week and has been impressive from limited overs with the ball, leading to Shane Warne giving him his tick of approval for the first Test.
The Daily Telegraph reports that selectors are giving serious consideration to the plan after Burns made scores of 4, 0, 0, and 1 in two tour matches against India.
Labuschagne made his first-class debut as an opener and — as Australia’s regular first-drop — is no stranger to the rigours of batting early in the innings.
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His elevation would, however, create a significant ripple effect with Steve Smith likely to move up to No.3 and Travis Head to No.4.
A gap would then open in the middle-order, with Green a strong contender to take either No.5 or No.6 with Matthew Wade alongside.
Another option, however, would be to have Wade open the batting and have Green at No.6 — that would allow for better continuity in the order, but Wade has never opened the batting in Test cricket.
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Out of left-field could be the selection of either Shaun Marsh or Usman Khawaja to open, but that appears to be a last resort with both players snubbed from the tour matches.
Meanwhile, selectors are set to give Marcus Harris another shot at the top of the order given Burns’ immense struggles.
Harris failed to make a strong impression for Australia A but did fare far better than Burns with scores of 35, 25*, 26 and 5. He also has a double century to his name in the Sheffield Shield this season.
Burns made just 57 runs at 11.40 in the Sheffield Shield before his issues accelerated against India.
“He’s just shot,” former Test captain Allan Border said on Fox Cricket. “It’s a sad sight seeing a bloke really struggling to just find any sort of form.
“My gut feel (on picking Burns) is just no. He has been given these little windows of opportunity because of injury, concussion, circumstances with other guys without nailing down a spot.
“If he had just shown something, even if he had 20-odd today and batted OK and got a good ball to get out – you might think: ‘OK, we’ll stick with the incumbent’.”