Former Test skipper Mark Taylor has backed veteran Moises Henriques to make a fairytale return to the national side for the Ashes ahead of a make-or-break few months for Test hopefuls.
Henriques and the recently-axed Travis Head have both staked their claim to make Test comebacks with strong returns at the Shield level in recent weeks.
However, Taylor backed the New South Wales all-rounder Henriques over Head to claim a middle-order spot in Australia’s Ashes XI.
“I think it’s far too early at this stage to tell who’s going to fill those spots,” Taylor told Wide World of Sports.
“He’s getting towards the end of his career, but if I had to pick a team tomorrow, I’d have Moises Henriques at five.”
With the spots of David Warner, Will Pucovski, Steve Smith, and Marnus Labuschagne all but locked into the top order, it’s looking increasingly like a battle for two places for anyone on the outside – but Taylor believes Cameron Green will keep his spot as well.
“There’s no doubt Cameron Green is the incumbent now in that six spot and rightfully so, but I’d think Australia will hope that he continues to develop,” he said.
“He’s pencilled in now, he’s almost inked in for the start of the Ashes at number six. All he can do now is continue to prove and that big score he made was obviously terrific.”
The odd man out right now could well be Travis Head, despite his recent statement-making double century for South Australia.
“Putting a big score on the board in the first innings in particular I think is a really good thing for him – because looking back at some of his recent successes, a lot of them have been rearguard actions in the second innings when his states been struggling,” Taylor said.
“A big double hundred in the first innings certainly gets a big tick.”
The former Australian captain also said that despite Head being dropped for the end of the recent series against India, it was clear he would be a fixture for years to come if runs continued at state level.
“I don’t think he’s even been out of favour. He’s young, he’s up and coming and he’s a potential leader,” Taylor said.
“I want to see him continue to make runs, particularly against quality attacks, and I think that’s going to be the question that people want answered about Travis Head.
“He’s struggled against the better attacks when he’s been given the opportunity.”
CURRENT SHEFFIELD SHIELD RUN LEADERS
- Travis Head – 693 in 10 innings (77)
- Shaun Marsh – 554 in 8 innings (79.14)
- Moises Henriques – 549 in 9 innings (68.62)
- Cameron Green – 531 in 8 innings (88.50)
- Will Pucovski – 495 in 3 innings (247.50)
A return to the big time for Henriques would be an incredible end to his career, after receiving a debut in 2013 and playing just three Tests. He was recalled for one match in 2016 and has never represented Australia on home soil.
“I’ve been a big supporter of Moises throughout his career, and I’ll be honest with you, I think the selectors did the wrong thing by him in 2013 when he went to India, did OK, played well in the first Test of that ill-fated tour, and then they didn’t take him to England which I thought was a real mistake,” Taylor said.
“I thought that was the chance for him, I think he was ready to go. Then they’ve only given him limited opportunities between then and now.”
Now 34 and with a world of first-class cricket experience under his belt, Henriques may well be one that got away for Australia when people look back at his career.
“He’s been one of those guys that’s missed the opportunities that have been afforded to people like the Travis Heads and the Mitch Marshes,” Taylor said.
“If they’d spent the time with Moises Henriques, they potentially would have had a guy they could lock in at number five or six.
“He’s got as good a cricket brain as there is of the guys who aren’t in the Australian side at the moment, he’s got great match awareness and obviously been a leader for NSW and the Sixers … he’s also a damn good catcher, and I’ve always said that’s a real bonus.”
There may be one extra chance for any of that trio, or other bolters, to make an impression – the final of the Test Championship in June.
But Australia’s Test team will be out of action for six months unless England do them a favour and beat India in the final match of that series. A win for England would push the Aussies into the final against New Zealand.
India defeat England inside two days
“Cameron Green deserves to stay at six – but if Australia don’t make that final of the Test championship it’ll be down to that one Test against Afghanistan and early Shield form might become vital again,” Taylor said.
The 56-year-old said it was unfortunate to have to rely on England, but to not count them out just yet.
“I think there’s some chance because they played well in the first Test – but I hope they don’t get the same sort of pitch as the last two,” he said.
“The MCG pitch once received a poor Test rating. If that’s poor, I don’t know what that last one would be.”
The fourth Test between England and India begins on Thursday.
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