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Aussies unsure on XI, batting order

A spin-friendly SCG pitch could result in recalls for Peter Handscomb and Marnus Labuschagne as Australia stew over their XI for the fourth Test against India.

Aussies unsure on XI, batting order

A spin-friendly SCG pitch could result in recalls for Peter Handscomb and Marnus Labuschagne as Australia stew over their XI for the fourth Test against India.

PETER HANDSCOMB of Australia bats during the second match in the Test series between Australia and India at Perth Stadium in Perth, Australia.
PETER HANDSCOMB of Australia bats during the second match in the Test series between Australia and India at Perth Stadium in Perth, Australia. Picture:Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

A reshuffled Australian batting order and recalls for Marnus Labuschagne and Peter Handscomb appear on the cards in Sydney, where the uncertain hosts are scrambling to avoid unprecedented ignominy.

Tim Paine's team must win the fourth Test, which starts on Thursday, or they will become the first Australian side to suffer a series loss at home to India.


Paine, stewing over potential changes that include promoting himself up the order, failed to name an XI in his pre-match press conference.

Labuschagne, added to what is now a 14-man squad, is expected to play his first Test at home.

Promoting Labuschagne, whose legspin made more headlines than his batting on Test debut in October, would leave Handscomb, Mitch Marsh and Aaron Finch locked in a battle over the final spot in the XI.

Handscomb looms as the likely winner of that showdown but there has been plenty of debate among selectors since India claimed a 2-1 series lead in Melbourne.

Last week's MCG meltdown, a spin-friendly SCG pitch, India's likely XI and the looming returns of Steve Smith and David Warner are just some of the factors influencing selectors.

Paine, coach Justin Langer and on-duty selector Greg Chappell were locked in long and deep conversation during Wednesday's pitch inspection.

Paine admitted Langer and Chappell already have one eye on the future, including this year's Ashes tour that Smith and Warner are likely to feature in.

"We want to pick the best team. You have (also) always got to have a little bit of an eye to the future," Paine told reporters.

"There's always going to be a little bit of a balancing act.

"A lot of people who are critical of selection processes won't like that, but they're just the plain facts."

Paine backed both Labuschagne and Handscomb to fire if selected.

"We think it will spin here so if India were to play two spinners, I think Pete can be a really important player for us," he said.

"He's an excellent player of spin.

"Like Marnus, he's a very good package and person to have around.

"Marnus ... his legspin has improved out of sight and you're almost leaning towards him at Test level now as a bit of an all-round option."

Usman Khawaja appears likely to open alongside Marcus Harris, while Paine revealed he may also promote himself up the order.

"We're happy to be changing it a little bit," Paine said.

"You don't want to be changing too much.

"We want to try and settle guys who we think will play long term in their positions."

Paine suggested denying India a maiden series victory in Australia was not a source of personal motivation, while India skipper Virat Kohli noted the tourists were full of confidence after retaining the Border-Gavaskar trophy.

"I just feel there is nothing to be said at all (to teammates), because you sense energy in the change room," Kohli said.

AAP


AAP




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