Ending a revolving door of openers will be among Australia’s priorities as they seek to pick up the pieces after a humbling Test series loss to India.
Some bookmakers slashed the odds of Australia winning the series to $1.08 after they skittled India for a record-low 36 in Adelaide, such was the level of expectation.
Failing to close out the SCG and Gabba Tests will ensure some members of Tim Paine’s squad have a nervous wait before a touring party for the proposed series against South Africa is picked.
Pick and stick has been coach Justin Langer and chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns’ mantra throughout recent years.
Pat Cummins, speaking to reporters on Wednesday, expressed similar sentiments.
“Back the guys in. It’s a really similar squad to what we had last summer,” man-of-the-series Cummins said.
“We also have five or six guys who ran drinks and were a big part of our squad.
“Hopefully we keep a really similar group of guys together for South Africa. We know the guys have performed … really confident we’ve got the right group.”
However, the recent dumping of Joe Burns and Travis Head shows selectors’ patience has a limit.
Complicating matters is the fact that the next home summer is an Ashes series, which brings with it unparalleled scrutiny but also plenty of long-term planning.
Assessing what went wrong is now primarily the domain of Langer, who will be stinging about the end of Australia’s 32-year undefeated Test streak at the Gabba.
The opening partnership is an obvious place to start.
Burns and Matthew Wade did the job in the first half of the four-Test series.
David Warner and Will Pucovski combined at the top of the order in Sydney then Marcus Harris replaced injured state teammate Pucovski for the series decider.
With the exception of the 89-run stand between Warner and Harris at the Gabba, which ironically was followed by a collapse of 4-34 and stop-start innings that helped give India a sniff, there was little of substance.
Warner, who has had 12 opening partners throughout his 86-Test career, is yet to settle into a long-term pairing with anybody since Chris Rogers retired in 2015.
Pucovski looms as Warner’s most likely opening partner in South Africa but that will be dependent on the young gun’s shoulder healing.
“We didn’t nail our opening partnerships,” Langer admitted.
“The middle order’s got a lot of starts (but failed to go on).
“All the things that are obvious, we just have to find out reasons why.”
Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne enhanced their status as the nation’s most reliable run-scorers but otherwise there was little to excite pundits.
“There’s been a lot of challenges this summer and a lot of mud thrown at our cricket team. We’ll stand up, like we always do,” Langer told ABC Sport.
Wade is under pressure after failing to pass 50 in his past 14 Test innings, which have all been in Australia.
The 33-year-old’s capacity to shuffle up or down the order, and indeed take the gloves, may result in him being part of what will be another enlarged Test squad because of COVID-19.