Peter Nevill was unlucky to be dropped by Australia and is a chance for an Ashes return.
Peter Nevill was unlucky to be dropped by Australia and is a chance for an Ashes return.

Crash Craddock picks his Ashes XI

BEFORE Australian selectors know who they want in the first Ashes Test at the Gabba, they must know what they want - and that alone could trigger a marathon debate.

Do they choose their wicketkeeper on glove-work or batting skill - and if it's both which one matters more? What's the balance?

Do they want a No. 6 who can bowl as well or do they simply want the best batsman they can find?

Simple questions with complex answers.

Test selection wise, nothing much changed on the opening day of the Sheffield Shield season at the Gabba where Queensland batted first on a greentop against Victoria.

Usman Khawaja (40) spotlighted why he will be one of the first Test batsmen chosen in Australia - but also why he is often the last man cut when playing abroad.

He fought strongly against an all-Australian attack under conditions that tamed all others only to fall to the leg-spinner Fawad Ahmed who seemed to note that Khawaja was having trouble with his wrong-un or sliding top spinner and had him edge one to slip poking outside off-stump.

There it was - the two Khawajas in one innings.

The cool-headed, time-aplenty combatant of pace bowling and the man who seems far less assured against spin.

But it is as certain as any Test recall can be that Khawaja will be back for the first Test against England on November 23 and Matt Renshaw's 17 on Thursday won't matter because he will be there as well.

Nine positions in Australia's starting side are all but set in cement entering the Gabba opener but Australia must decide on a No. 6 batsman and a keeper.

The No. 6 spot is as close to a raffle as you can find with at least eight candidates in contention and even the selectors may struggle to tell you who was favourite.

Shaun Marsh is hitting the ball as sweetly as Tiger Woods used to hit it off the tee but he has been a work in progress for 16 years and surely the experiment must stop somewhere.

Peter Nevill was unlucky to be dropped by Australia and is a chance for an Ashes return.
Peter Nevill was unlucky to be dropped by Australia and is a chance for an Ashes return.

Joe Burns is up to the challenge but he failed on Thursday after an interstate 50-over tournament when he scored occasional runs but not the dam-busting innings he needed.

Glenn Maxwell could be a chance but he never seems the favoured choice in Australia and Moises Henriques remains an enigma who looks far more imposing for NSW than Australia.

Hilton Cartwright averages above 50 in first class cricket and was in the runs at the WACA last night.

Marcus Stoinis is an interesting one. If you want to make a case against him you can simply point to his record of just four centuries and 43 first-class matches in nine years since his first class debut.

His average of 35 would barely have got a game for his state, Western Australia, never mind his country in bygone years.

And yet the men who played with him on the recent tour of India became instant admirers of his temperament and cool confidence in run chases to the point that they feel he has untapped potential.

Keeping-wise Australia will decide whether to keep faith with Matthew Wade, who seemed to be improving as a keeper but his batting is fading, or recall the unlucky Peter Nevill, who is less rowdy behind the stumps but a soft-handed custodian who was unlucky to be axed last season.

South Australia's Alex Carey is also in the mix but it may be too soon.

This is a crucial call. Aussie great Ian Healy used to call keepers the drummers in the band and if they don't set the right tempo, the rest of the band cannot get the beat.


Robert Craddock's team for the First Test at the Gabba on November 23

■ David Warner

■ Matt Renshaw

■ Usman Khawaja

■ Steve Smith (c)

■ Peter Hanscomb

■ Hilton Cartwright

■ Peter Nevill (left)

■ Pat Cummins

■ Josh Hazlewood

■ Mitchell Starc

■ Nathan Lyon

■ Nathan Coulter-Nile (12th)

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