Birmingham: Australia coach Justin Langer says an Ashes return for Cameron Bancroft would be “a great story”, but knows he will face a hostile reception from England fans after his ball-tampering ban.
Bancroft, 26, is set to open the batting in Thursday’s first Test at Edgbaston, with Australia’s top order also likely to feature David Warner and Steve Smith. If that is the case, it would mean all three players who were banned for their roles in the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa last year would be back in Australia’s playing XI.
Smith and Warner have already experienced plenty of boos from English crowds during the recent World Cup.
Bancroft, not selected for the one-day tournament, will almost certainly experience more of the same given he was the one who actually applied sandpaper to the ball during a Test away to South Africa in a blatant flouting of cricket’s rule book.
“It would be a great story if he comes back into the team,” Langer said at Edgbaston on Tuesday.
“His development after what happened in Cape Town has been extraordinary.”
Langer, a former Australia opener, said: “We know what the reception is going to be. There’s nothing we can do about it. We don’t know (how he will cope) actually, but we’ll find out.
“He’s a good kid and as tough as anyone you could meet. To endure the scrutiny of the past 14 months, especially the first part of it, I think he’s had a pretty good dress rehearsal.”
Langer confirmed batsman Usman Khawaja, who missed Australia’s World Cup semi-final defeat by England at Edgbaston with a hamstring injury, had been passed fit and would play in the opening match of the five-Test series.
“He’s a seasoned pro for us, he averages 40-odd in Test cricket, his hammy is good, he’s running well, he’s passed all the fitness tests, so he’s ready to go,” Langer said.
Fast bowler James Pattinson is also set to feature in what would be his first Test since February 2016, lining up alongside Pat Cummins and one of Mitchell Starc, Peter Siddle or Josh Hazlewood in Australia’s pace attack.
“There’s probably three to be fair — Starcy, Peter Siddle and Josh Hazlewood — for one spot,” added Langer.
Australia hold the Ashes but have not won a Test series away to England since 2001.
Meanwhile, England batsman Joe Denly confirmed he will drop to No 4, with captain Joe Root replacing him at No 3 in the order.
Root has previously made clear he prefers batting at four but the Yorkshireman is understood to have approached England coach Trevor Bayliss after last week’s Test win over Ireland about returning to his old position of first-wicket down when the Ashes opener starts on Thursday.
Although England beat Ireland by skittling out the visitors for 38 in their second innings at Lord’s, they only managed 85 all out themselves in their first innings.
Bayliss has long wanted Root, now England’s best batsman, to bat at No. 3 following a succession of top-order collapses that have seen the skipper walking out to bat at four when two cheap wickets have fallen.
Denly, speaking at Edgbaston on Tuesday, said: “Joe Root will bat at three and I’ll be batting at four.
“He rang me the other day and told me he wanted to bat three and for me to go in at four. I think Rooty just wanted to get involved in the game, get up there and get out in the middle.
“I’m very excited. I wasn’t too fussed where I’d be batting, it’s just great to be in the 11. I’ve batted at four before for Kent and throughout my career, so it really wasn’t a big issue.”