Bancroft axed from Aussie squad to face NZ
CAMERON Bancroft has been left out of an otherwise unchanged Australian squad to face New Zealand but will remain on standby should a change need to be made to the top six.
The Australian camp also moved to calm concerns over injuries to captain Tim Paine and star quick Mitchell Starc, insisting both were in good shape heading to Perth.
Selectors resisted the urge to add new blood to the squad that swept Pakistan 2-0, but chairman Trevor Hohns indicated a second spinner or an all-rounder - or both - could be added later in the series.
Bancroft has been left out of the 13-man party so he can play in Western Australia's Sheffield Shield match against Victoria, which starts on Saturday at the MCG.
He still shapes as the concussion substitute if needed for the first Test against New Zealand at Optus Stadium, given he will be back in Perth by the time the match starts.
"We're very comfortable with our batting line-up at the moment - they're functioning quite well," Hohns said on Tuesday.
"We don't see it necessary to have a batsman as cover in the squad at the moment. Of course, we do reserve the right to add a player if necessary throughout this series."
Australia traditionally adds a second spinner for the last Test of the summer in Sydney. Ashton Agar is frontrunner ahead of Stephen O'Keefe.
It's possible Australia could also try and add an all-rounder either at the MCG or SCG to try to relieve the bowlers who by that point will have been through four Test matches.
With Mitchell Marsh still recovering from a hand injury, Hohns indicated the all-rounder was unlikely to be fit to take part in this Test summer.
"That's pretty doubtful at the moment," Hohns said.
"The latest info we have on him is that his hand was coming out of a splint very, very soon. He was yet to do any hitting with the bat."
There were concerns Starc was carrying an injury late on day four in Adelaide - with the left-arm quick, who took a series-high 14 wickets, appearing to roll his ankle.
Paine, meanwhile, took several awkward blows to the hand while keeping, but Hohns was confident neither was in danger of missing the Perth Test.
"Mitchell Starc's going quite well - it's not an issue of his ankle," he said.
"My understanding is he took some skin off one of his big toes. He'll be fine.
"Tim's a tough guy, most wicketkeepers are. So they give you very little, but at the moment there's no cause for concern over Tim's fitness."
The performance of Australia's top order in the two-Test thrashing of Pakistan, with David Warner plundering 489 runs, and Marnus Labuschagne hammering two centuries, had made it easier to cut Bancroft, Hohns said.
"David Warner has been in exceptional form with the bat," he said.
"The support he received from Joe Burns in Brisbane and Marnus Labuschagne in Adelaide was exactly what we had been asking for from the top order. They delivered, setting up both matches in what was an outstanding all-round performance.
"We are backing the current batting line-up to continue their form across the next three Tests. Whilst not a part of this squad, Cameron Bancroft remains one of the standby players.
"Similarly, depending on conditions, we reserve the right to add a player to the squad at any time during the series."
Michael Neser will be released to play in Queensland's Shield game at the SCG on December 7, before returning to camp - while James Pattinson will remain with the squad as the standby fast bowler during the lead-up in Perth.
"Michael Neser and James Pattinson will continue as cover for Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood through the series," Hohns added.
"Michael will play for Queensland against NSW in the Marsh Sheffield Shield game at the SCG, as James did last week for Victoria."
AUSTRALIAN SQUAD TO FACE NEW ZEALAND
Tim Paine (capt), Joe Burns, Pat Cummins (vc), Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head (vc), Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Steven Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner
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