Renshaw, Burns and Maxwell have all tried and failed to cement Test spots but now have another chance.
Three out, three in. James Sutherland announced on Tuesday 27 March, that Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft, all in the thick of the ball-tampering issue that has engulfed Australia, would take no further part in the tour of South Africa.
Instead, all of Matt Renshaw, Glenn Maxwell and Joe Burns will fly in to Johannesburg ahead of the fourth and final Test of what has been a fiery series.
There may be no winners in the ongoing saga, but it has at least afforded opportunities for those on the fringes, reignited their hopes of resuscitating their Test careers, provided they get into the XI.
Here, we look at the three with that chance, and how they have fared so far.
At 22, Renshaw has a long career brimming with possibilities ahead. After being called up to the squad, Renshaw stressed that he had stayed away from all the controversy and was focussing on making the most of the opportunity. “(I will) just enjoy the challenge of playing Test cricket, it’s not every day you get to play for your country. Really looking forward to getting back in the Test arena and really express myself.”
He has already played 10 Tests for Australia, since making his debut in Adelaide when South Africa visited in 2016. He made his mark in the three-match series against Pakistan that followed, scoring a half-century in Brisbane before posting a patient 184 in Sydney.
An old-fashioned opening batsman, content to bide his time and nick the runs, he proved the perfect foil for David Warner’s exuberance, and was the second-highest scorer for Australia in the four-match series in India that followed after scoring two half-centuries.
Congratulations to @qldcricket for winning the Sheffield Shield. Best team all year and deserved to be crowned red ball champions 👏 Weldone to @MattRenshaw449 on his recall as well. Has been top drawer post Xmas! #renners— Glenn Maxwell (@Gmaxi_32) March 27, 2018
His form dipped in the two-match series in Bangladesh thereafter, and with Cameron Bancroft being called up to the Ashes squad, Renshaw returned to the domestic circuit, trying to work his way back to form.
And he did. In his 11 Sheffield Shield matches for Queensland this season, Renshaw scored 804 runs at 44.66, a tally that puts him at the top of the run-scorers' chart. He has scored three centuries and as many half-centuries, and heads to South Africa full of confidence, his runs having helped Queensland to their eighth Shield title.
Maxwell’s limited-overs prowess has meant that so far in his career, he has been largely considered a specialist in the short versions of the game. He is 29 years old, but has played just seven Tests since making his debut in 2013, against India in Hyderabad. He hasn’t really made the most of his opportunities though – he averages just 26.07 with the bat, despite a 104 against India in Ranchi just over a year ago.
That knock raised hopes that Maxwell had turned a corner, but his subsequent scores in Dharamsala, Dhaka and Chittagong failed to match up, and he found himself excluded from the Ashes squad.
As with Renshaw, Maxwell got to work in the domestic circuit – he has aggregated 707 runs in eight matches at a fine average of 50.5. His strike rate of 70.34 is impressive as well. The danger Maxwell poses was no more evident than in Sydney, when he hammered a 318-ball 278 for Victoria against New South Wales in November.
Another opener with a rare chance to make an international comeback, Burns played the last of his 13 Tests in the 2016 home series against South Africa. There is panache in the way with which he goes about his batting, and there is temperament to back it up too. He has 873 runs in 13 Tests, at a decent average of 37.95, with three centuries and four half-centuries.
That, however, wasn’t enough for him to cement a place in the line-up, with Warner virtually immovable from his spot and the other opener’s slot being highly contested.
Burns has been in terrific form for Queensland this season, his rapport with Renshaw at the top all too evident. He has 727 runs in seven matches at 60.01, the highlight being the unbeaten 202 he scored against South Australia in Cairns.
He was tipped to make the initial squad for the tour of South Africa but a hip injury while with Brisbane Heat in the Big Bash League proved untimely.
He has a second bite at the cherry now, and chances are he’ll face the new ball with Renshaw in Johannesburg.
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