‘Never seen myself as competing with Renshaw’ – Joe Burns

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  • Andrew McGlashanDeputy editor, ESPNcricinfo

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      Deputy Editor Andrew arrived at ESPNcricinfo via Manchester and Cape Town, after finding the assistant editor at a weak moment as he watched England’s batting collapse in the Newlands Test. Andrew began his cricket writing as a freelance covering Lancashire during 2004 when they were relegated in the County Championship. In fact, they were top of the table when he began reporting on them but things went dramatically downhill. He likes to let people know that he is a supporter of county cricket, a fact his colleagues will testify to and bemoan in equal quantities.

Tim Paine is not part of Australia’s selection panel but he will have the chance to cast his eye over the new faces in the Test squad if he so wishes when the CA XI take on the Sri Lankans in the day-night tour match starting in Hobart on Thursday. The contest has been elevated in significance by the inclusion of the trio of batsmen called up to the Test squad – Joe Burns, Matt Renshaw and the uncapped Will Pucovski – alongside incumbent Marcus Labuschange. Paine is back at home, having resisted the temptation to play in the Big Bash in the small gap between facing India and Sri Lanka, and was at Bellerive Oval on Wednesday doing some work with fellow Tasmania player and CA XI wicketkeeper Jake Doran.

The three-day match, which won’t have first-class status to allow the Sri Lankans to utilise their squad, is being billed as a bat-off for three places in the final XI for the first Test at the Gabba.

Burns, who captains the CA XI, will open with Queensland team-mate Renshaw in what looks like a contest to partner Marcus Harris at the top of the order. Burns’ Sheffield Shield numbers for the season are far superior – an average of 47.20 compared to Renshaw’s 19.90 – while Renshaw was warned by Justin Langer not to take his eye off the ball after dips in form when he had previously been earmarked for the Test side. Burns played down the potential of the match becoming a very individual affair with Test places on the line.

“The fact we work together doing the same role, building a partnership as an opener pair, you are just happy to see team-mates going well,” he said. “Hopefully we can both get the opportunity, I’ve never seen myself as competing with Renners. It’s just how we can get the job done for Queensland.”

There will also be much interest around Pucovski, who has played just eight first-class matches before his first Test call-up. The match could work both ways: a chance for the Australian players to claim early points against Sri Lanka’s bowlers, but also the opportunity for the visitors to make a mark against some of those they will be playing next week in Brisbane.

“We don’t see ourselves as here to service Sri Lanka in any way, it’s about hopefully setting the tone for the Test series,” Burns said. “I’m not sure about a bat-off, it’s just a chance to spend time in the middle with a big Test series coming up and get exposed to the Sri Lanka bowlers. The selectors want to see players in certain positions and we have an eye on the Test series as well.”

The fact this game now resembles an Australia A side is also because there is currently no domestic first-class cricket being played, and hasn’t been since early December due to the Big Bash. The structure of the season is due to come under review although it would appear unlikely that there will be space for regular multi-day cricket at this time of the season. Burns was diplomatic when asked about the challenges of presenting a Test case in the midst of a T20 season.

“It’s always a tricky talking point. We had the opportunity to play six Shield games back-to-back which as a player you really appreciate,” he said. “I know a lot has been made that guys haven’t been playing long-form cricket but you don’t lose your skills overnight. Games like this serve a really valuable purpose. In an ideal world we are coming out of a few long format games but reality you can’t always have them on when there are three formats.”

Although now back in the Test squad, Burns has also been cited as an example of the perception that the selectors have backed potential over performance in recent times. He was parachuted back into the Test side for the final Test against South Africa following the ball-tampering but then left out of the series against Pakistan and India.

“Everyone who gets selected for Australia is a really, really good player,” Burns said. “You don’t even get a job in professional cricket at state level without being an excellent player. All the guys who get opportunities are very talented, sometimes it can be a simple judgement call from selectors. It’s just the way the game is with the three formats, players coming in and out of competitions all around the world, it’s very hard to throw a blanket over a group of players and compare them all evenly.”

While it’s the Test players who have most to gain or lose immediately, there are other eye-catching names involved with the New South Wales pair of Jason Sangha and Kurtis Patterson part of the batting line-up, while seamers Chris Tremain and Scott Boland can push their claims to be back-up Ashes quicks.

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