SYDNEY — Spurned by his own state, wicketkeeper Tim Paine considered retirement before winning a surprising recall to Australia’s squad for the first two Ashes tests against England.
It was the most surprising of the changes announced Friday, which also included Cameron Bancroft selected to make his test debut at the expense of Matthew Renshaw, Shaun Marsh getting a recall in favor of Glenn Maxwell and Chadd Sayers being included among the 13-man squad and most likely as an option for the second test in Adelaide.
Paine missed selection for Tasmania state at the start of the season and, about to become a father for the first time, thought of quitting cricket to take a job with equipment manufacturer Kookaburra.
But the 32-year-old Paine was handed a lifeline when he was included in a Cricket Australia XI to play England in warmup matches. His half-century against the tourists and 71 in a domestic first-class game against Victoria propelled him into the test side ahead of incumbent Matthew Wade and Peter Nevill, the previously more expected replacement.
Paine played four tests in 2010 — two against Pakistan in England and two in India — and averages almost 36 with the bat as well as taking 16 catches and a stumping. The 78-test gap between test appearances is the longest by any Australia player.
“I feel like I’m about to make my test debut again,” Paine told reporters in Tasmania on Friday. “It’s been a hard road to get back here and I’m extremely proud of the way I’ve gone about things in the last five or six years.”
News of Paine’s recall was broken by Australian media overnight, creating consternation among commentators and fans.
Wade and Nevill were expected to vie for the wicketkeeping role, while Bancroft was also seen as an outside chance to take the gloves, though it was felt that pressure might be excessive in his first test.
But Wade and Nevill have failed to pass 50 in three rounds of first-class matches, making Paine’s moderate form loom larger than it might otherwise have done.
“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,” chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns said. “His batting form in recent outings for the Cricket Australia XI and Tasmania has been good.”
Nevill is regarded as the best gloveman among the candidates and Wade, who has been the stronger batsman, has worked hard to improve his work behind the stumps. But the pair has managed only 731 runs between them at an average of 21.5 since Brad Haddin retired from the test side in 2015.
Bancroft will become Australia’s 451st test player when he opens the innings with David Warner in the series-opener next Thursday at the Gabba.
“Cameron has been a player of interest to us for some time now,” Hohns said. “He is a very talented and tough cricketer who shows a good temperament for test cricket.”
The 21-year-old Renshaw, who was born in England and moved to Australia as a child, has posted a century and three half centuries in 10 tests since his debut in late 2016. He was dropped after managing only 70 runs in six innings for Queensland in the Sheffield Shield.
“We still view Matthew as a player of immense talent but he is out of form and we don’t feel an Ashes test match is the best place for him to find form,” Hohns said.
The 34-year-old Marsh has won back his place in the lineup after missing the tour to Bangladesh. He has been in outstanding form in the One-Day Cup competition and has passed 50 in each of West Australia’s three Shield games.
“He is a versatile player who can slot in anywhere in the batting order and will add valuable experience to the batting lineup,” Hohns said.
Fast bowler Sayers his likely to get his chance in the day-night second test at Adelaide, where conditions might suit his swing bowling.
Sayers was the leading wicket-taker in the Sheffield Shield last season with 62 wickets, and has 14 this season at an average of 25.
Australia: David Warner, Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith (captain), Peter Handscomb, Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood, Jackson Bird, Chadd Sayers.