Bancroft knock all but secures Aussie return
TESTcaptain Tim Paine could not have praised Cameron Bancroft any higher after the one-time banished opener moved closer to a stunning return to the national team.
Bancroft was the stand-out batsmen making a match-high 93 not out to help guide his Hick XII outfit to a five-wicket win in an Ashes warm-up match which it now seems had little bearing on squad selection.
Paine gave his thoughts to selectors Trevor Hohns, Greg Chappell and coach Justin Langer via a phone hook-up before Bancroft's ultra-impressive outing in Southampton.
Selectors will confirm the squad on Friday night (9pm AEST) in Southampton and Paine said the size was still being debated.
And while it might not be the knock which got Bancroft in to the squad, after Paine conceded he'd made his mind made up some time ago, the West Australian's innings could bump him from squad member in to the starting team for the first Test in Birmingham.
Only Bancroft and David Warner (58) made half centuries in the match, played on a wicket Paine said "wasn't ideal" bordered on dangerous.
The captain was struck on the arm while batting and Bancroft was twice hit in the groin, and once in the head as the ball seamed and swung in all directions.
Paine said it was being able to stick it out in such difficult conditions, for 194 balls, more than double any other batsmen, which made Bancroft' effort that much better.
"I thought "Bangers" (Bancroft) played unbelievably well. To get basically a hundred on that wicket was an unbelievable effort," Paine said.
"I thought what it showed is Bangers' toughness … and the mental application that Bangers has got, to keep going forward, to keep wearing balls on the body.
"The boys think he has a bit of a screw loose but he seems to enjoy getting hit on the body, it seems to make him bat better. He was superb in that second innings."
Usman Khawaja, who missed the match, had a strong centre wicket hitout post game and Paine said he was "100 per cent" ready for the first Test.
Matthew Wade looks set to return to the national set-up, and cold even bat at number six at Edgbaston, while Paine also singled out spinner Jon Holland for praise, an indication he could be chosen as a second spinner.
"I think that's probably one of the main decisions that is still being weighed up, if we are going to go in with 16 or 17," Paine said.
"I've already spoken to them (selectors), so I've given my thoughts. Obviously we've been in constant communication for some times and bouncing squads and teams off each other the whole time.
"There weren't too many unanswered questions coming in, we knew every play really well in the 25-man squad that is here.
"It was more about the hit-out, having a really competitive game of cricket so we can get to Edgbaston next week having already had a really hard, difficult hit-out under our belts that will make the adjustment to Test intensity a little bit easier for us."
All players will stay in Southampton until Saturday when the final Ashes squad will head to Birmingham.
Paine said would talk to those players who didn't get picked.
"I'll speak to all the guys who are going home, and you obviously feel for them because they've got so close to every Australian cricketer's dream," he said.
"To have it taken away a week before the first Test is going to sting.
"But we've got a really close group of 25 cricketers here and I'd imagine every one of our squad will be speaking to those guys in the next 24 hours."