National cricket selector John Inverarity has ruled out giving South Africa practice against emerging pace star Pat Cummins in their one tour match before next month’s Test series.
Cummins is likely to be a little way back in the pace pecking order despite his second-innings haul of 6-79 against South Africa in his only Test appearance last November.
Injury has prevented the 19-year-old NSW speedster from playing a first-class match since then.
Two emerging fast bowlers, James Pattinson and Mitchell Starc, are likely to be considered ahead of him, along with veterans Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus.
Cummins has played several Twenty20 matches for Australia and the Sydney Sixers in recent weeks, but his involvement in the Champions Trophy tournament would preclude him from playing more than one first-class game before the first Test in Brisbane.
That could be a Sheffield Shield game for NSW against Queensland, but it certainly won’t be for Australia A in the Proteas’ only lead-up match before the first Test.
“We won’t be giving the South African batsmen practice against Pat Cummins in the Australian A team,” Inverarity said on Tuesday.
He said as many as five pacemen could be selected in the first Test squad.
He stressed it would definitely contain a spinner, probably Nathan Lyon, though he also praised Victoria’s left-armer Jon Holland.
Inverarity said Australia had the options of going in with four pacemen and the fast-medium bowling of Shane Watson and relying on captain Michael Clarke for spin, or picking three quicks, Watson and a specialist spinner.
He said the most difficult decision in finalising the side would be choosing between Matthew Wade and Brad Haddin for the wicketkeeping spot.
Inverarity said it wasn’t ideal that players like allrounder Shane Watson, opener Dave Warner and middle-order batsman Michael Hussey, all of whom have been playing in the World T20 tournament and the Champions League, are likely to have just the one first-class hitout before the opening Test.
He said the team for the first Test would be named on October 30 or 31, before Australia A take on South Africa in a three-day match from November 2.
“Picking the Australia A there’s a mixture of things there,” Inverarity said.
“We’d like to see a lot of young emerging players and some older players too who are in contention and see how they go against South Africa.”
He said the rotation of players was a reality and pointed to the emergence of Starc over the last few months as evidence the policy was working.
“The cold hard facts are a cricketer can’t just play every game and perform at his best, and in the interests of developing some depth and creating opportunities for some players, I think phasing a few in and out is the best way to go,” Inverarity said.