Border picks his Australia XI for first Ashes Test
NO two spots in the Australian team have caused more debate heading into the Ashes than the No.6 and wicketkeeper.
Yet to shed his tag as a subcontinental specialist, incumbent Glenn Maxwell is facing competition from batsmen and all-rounders around the country, while Matthew Wade's hold on the gloves is precarious at best.
Test great Allan Border would retain one of them. The other he's less convinced of.
With the caveat that this opinion could change after the three rounds of Sheffield Shield cricket that precede this summer's Ashes, Border has called on selectors to keep the faith in Wade and backed Shaun Marsh to play at the Gabba.
"If I had to pick a team right now, my theory is you pick the six best batsmen that we think are going to get the job done," Border said.
"At the moment Shaun's in great touch, albeit in white ball cricket.
"He's got tremendous technique. He's shown what he can do when he gets opportunities to have a bit of a run at it.
"Occasionally he's let himself down with some form issues and he's been a bit injury-plagued which has cost him momentum at the top level but I think on our pitches against England's type of bowling attack he could flourish."
Marsh, 34, has an average of 36.00 in Test cricket and was left out of Australia's squad for the tour of Bangladesh, but has been in fine form in the JLT One-Day Cup (380 at 95.00).
It should be noted Border has not drawn a line through Maxwell's name, insisting that it's all to play for in the first three rounds of the Shield.
"I'd like to just see a pile of runs from Maxwell in the Sheffield Shield; I'd be very comfortable with them picking him on the back of some form.
"I like what Maxwell brings to the table, it's just he worries me. I wouldn't want to have the house on him getting 50 in the Test match.
"He's a very talented cricketer and as soon as the light bulb moment switches on he could be a real winner for us but I don't think it's happened just yet.
"I'd like to see him grizzle out some hard-earned runs."
The former Australian captain is unconvinced there is an all-rounder banging the door down for selection at the moment, nor that Australia needs one.
"It leaves us a little bit short on the bowling side of things but four bowlers has worked for us in the past at times. When I look at what the all-rounder has done bowling wise recently, he hasn't bowled a hell of a lot of overs."
Despite Wade's struggles with the bat since his return to the Test arena - he has averaged 20.23 over his past 10 Tests and scored eight runs across three innings in Bangladesh - Border has backed the 29-year-old to rediscover his best touch if he is retained.
"Obviously his batting has been the problem child in recent times. He's lost confidence and all those sorts of things but there's something about him.
"No one's knocking the door down saying pick me at the moment. So stick with the incumbent who is a good cricketer lacking a bit of confidence, but with retention could spring back into action."
The former selector has backed rookie opener Matt Renshaw to thrive against England's attack and labelled Usman Khawaja a "must-pick" at No.3.
Renshaw burst onto the Test arena as a 20-year-old last summer, and dominated his second series in the format (271 at 67.75).
The Queenslander's form faded in Asia (308 runs at 25.66), but Border believes the tall left-hander is the perfect foil for the aggressive Warner.
"He's found out how hard it is to really put your skills on show on the subcontinent in particular but I like what he's brought to the table.
"He and Warner have got complementary styles. In our conditions, I think they'll thrive.
"Uzzie is one of the premier batsmen in the country and he uses that No.3 role well, particularly at home.
"And I'd like to see him given an extended run in that position overseas. He's not going to learn any other way than by spending time out in the middle."
That leaves captain Steve Smith at No.4 and Victorian Peter Handscomb at No.5.
Border said the attack of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon picks itself, but also nominated Jason Behrendorff, Nathan Coulter-Nile and Chadd Sayers as cover for the trio of quicks.
"At different individual times they've been sensational," Border said of Australia's three premier fast bowlers.
"Mitchell Starc has been quite incredible at times, what he's brought to the table.
"I like the consistency of Hazlewood, and he's becoming a better bowler as he gets older in terms of his lines and lengths, doing all those things you'd want from that type of bowler
"Cummins is the X-factor guy.
"Let him loose and give him that role that Mitchell Johnson played a few years ago, just to bowl short bursts and be the enforcer in that bowling attack and I think he'll play that role well."
Border's Gabba XI: Matt Renshaw, David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith (c), Peter Handscomb, Shaun Marsh, Matthew Wade, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon