The six Aussies sweating on spots for Sri Lanka series
A mere two days after suffering its first ever Test series at home to India, Australia will unveil a new squad for the two-match series against Sri Lanka on Wednesday.
Chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns is expected to reveal a bumper squad for this month's Warne-Muralitharan Trophy, which does not begin until January 24.
On Tuesday we took a look at the contenders for selection. Today we run our eyes over the group of players that took on India, and their own hopes of retention.
With the calls for Marcus Stoinis to make his debut growing, Marsh is firmly under pressure for his spot in the Test set-up and may not make it into the reckoning against Sri Lanka. The all-rounder got through 26 important but wicketless overs in his one Test against India and failed in both innings with the bat.
Batted out of position in the first three Tests against India, Finch struggled to make his mark as an opener. He was then not considered an option to play in the middle order at the SCG. It looks like his number has been punched for now.
Like Usman Khawaja, Marsh had a middling series with the bat. Unlike Khawaja, he does not have much credit left in the bank. Now 35 years old, Marsh has played 38 Tests and only averages 34.31. After three consecutive Test series defeats, in which the left-handers' contributions have been minimal, time may have ran out for the veteran.
Head was Australia's second highest run-scorer against India (237 at 33.85) but a tendency not to go on with it could weigh on selectors' minds. Head has made three half-centuries across his first six Tests but only has a high score of 72. The trend continued against India, as the South Australian reached double-digits in every innings but repeatedly fell softly.
Dropped after two lean Tests, Handscomb returned at the SCG with a modified technique that brought him further out of the crease and saw him make an encouraging 37. It's far from enough to have secured him a spot against Sri Lanka, but it may have piqued the curiosity of selectors to see how the new method fares in the long term.
A surprise selection to bat No.3 at the SCG, Labuschagne looked good for his 38 in what were some of the friendliest batting conditions of the summer. Like Handscomb, it was not a performance good enough to demand retention but he did not do his hopes any harm.
After years piling on the runs in the Sheffield Shield, Harris was rewarded with a baggy green against India. While he will regret not truly cashing in, failing to convert any of his starts into a game-defining performance, Harris did more than enough to lock in his spot against Sri Lanka. Harris was Australia's highest run-scorer in the Border-Gavaskar series (258 at 36.85) and consistently saw off the new ball.
Despite a poor series against India, it would be an enormous surprise if Khawaja's name was not read out on Wednesday afternoon. With no Steve Smith or David Warner in the line-up, Khawaja is Australia's best batsman and arguably still its most reliable. While the left-hander's tally of 198 runs against India was disappointing, he still faced more deliveries (592) than any other Australian and passed 20 in five of his seven completed innings. A big score may not be too far away.
Paine is the captain and the wicketkeeper. That says it all really.
Despite a lacklustre series against the Indians (13 wickets at 34.53), Starc remains the x-factor in Australia's attack and at his best the country's most dangerous bowler. Starc's average of 20.87 across four matches with the pink ball is cause for concern for Sri Lanka's batsmen.
He escaped the scrutiny that Starc suffered, but Hazlewood was similarly quiet against the Indians (13 wickets at 30.61). With a bit more luck those numbers could have improved. One tough series against a world class batting-order should not be enough to cost him his place. Like Starc, he loves the pink ball (21 wickets at 22.42). He is also the vice-captain.
Lyon topped the wicket-taking charts in the Border-Gavaskar series and is head and shoulders above any other first-class spinner in the country right now. Although he was handled with relative ease in the final two Tests against India, Lyon's name will be among the first on the team sheet.
Australia's best player in the Border-Gavaskar series, Cummins impressed with bat (163 runs at 23.28) and ball (14 wickets at 27.78) against the Indians.