MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australia have recalled wicketkeeper Tim Paine for the first time in seven years in a selection bombshell while dropping opening batsman Matt Renshaw in a surprising Ashes squad for the series against England.
The 32-year-old Paine, who played the last of his four tests in October 2010, has been included in a 13-man squad for the opening two tests, replacing the out-of-form Matthew Wade and denying Peter Nevill a spot.
In peculiar circumstances, Paine has not been considered the premier wicketkeeper for his state side Tasmania, with Wade taking the gloves in the domestic Sheffield Shield.
Paine comes into Steve Smith’s side after scoring a half-century against England and keeping for the Cricket Australia XI in the tour match in Adelaide.
“Tim was identified as an international player a long time ago and has always been renowned as a very good gloveman, also performing well for us whenever he has represented Australia in any format,” said selector Trevor Hohns.
“His batting form in recent outings for the Cricket Australia XI and Tasmania has been good.”
Pundits were quick to query the decision.
“(If) he’s meant to be the best keeper then you’d think at least he’d make the Tasmania one,” said former test bowler Brendon Julian.
“I just don’t get where that’s come from, that’s just a left-field selection.”
Uncapped Western Australian Cameron Bancroft replaces 10-test Renshaw as David Warner’s opening partner after scoring a mountain of Shield runs in the leadup to the first test in Brisbane starting next Thursday.
Renshaw has been in poor form for Queensland but the 21-year-old’s omission is certain to be polarising given his solid performances in the last home summer.
The Yorkshire-born opener smashed 184 against Pakistan in his last test on home soil at the Sydney Cricket Ground in January.
Bancroft scored an unbeaten 228 against South Australia this week and was unlucky to miss out on a test debut two years ago when the 2015 tour to Bangladesh was cancelled over security concerns.
“We didn’t really have anyone jumping out demanding selection except for Cameron Bancroft,” Hohns told reporters in Brisbane on Friday, describing the squad as one of the most difficult his panel had ever picked.
Selectors also sprung a surprise by recalling batsman Shaun Marsh while leaving out incumbent number six Glenn Maxwell.
The injury-prone 34-year-old Marsh has been in decent form for Western Australia but averages a modest 36 in tests and has never cemented his place despite plenty of chances since his 2011 debut against Sri Lanka.
Jackson Bird and the uncapped Chadd Sayers have been selected as the back-up bowlers to the formidable pace trio of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins.
With the quick turnaround between the Gabba opener and the second match in Adelaide, the first day-night Ashes test, Sayers could make his debut under lights on his home wicket to give one of the other seamers a rest.
“It’s no secret that Chadd’s inclusion is with a view to the Adelaide test match,” said Hohns. “I’m not suggesting for one moment that he’ll be already included (in the match).”
Squad: Steve Smith (captain), David Warner, Cameron Bancroft, Jackson Bird, Pat Cummins, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine (wicketkeeper), Chadd Sayers, Mitchell Starc
Additional reporting by Pritha Sarkar; Editing by Ken Ferris and Andrew Both