Winners and losers out of South Africa tour shocks
AUSTRALIA will take 15 men to South Africa for a four-Test tour - with some genuine surprises in the touring party.
Unheralded Australian quick Jhye Richardson and forgotten Victorian spinner Jon Holland are the two biggest shocks to join the touring party.
But they're not the only big winners - just like the exiled Glenn Maxwell isn't the only loser to have been overlooked.
Here's our analysis of the squad Darren Lehmann will take to South Africa next month.
This one came from nowhere.
The 21-year-old West Australian is one of the most promising quicks in the country and certainly caught the attention of influential people with his sizzling international debut last week, when he picked up two wickets in a losing team.
Importantly, he bowls heat - the major prerequisite for being a member of Darren Lehmann's pace cartel.
Richardson was regularly clocking above 145km/h and his skiddy style definitely troubled England's batsmen.
Still, with just five first class games to his name Richardson is a genuine bolter.
He's taken 21 first class wickets at 25.71 for Western Australia, and has been a star for the Perth Scorchers in the Twenty20 format.
This is not just a win, this is a monster win!
Holland, the man who recently conceded his Test days might be numbered after Ashton Agar was preferred for the SCG Ashes Test squad, is now back in the reckoning.
Seven Sheffield Shield wickets against New South Wales in Sydney and a further four against Western Australia in Melbourne two months ago was enough to convince selectors Holland was worthy of a spot in the touring squad for South Africa.
The 30-year-old has not represented Australia since August 2016 and has five Test wickets to his name from two matches. But his excellent first-class record puts the man they call 'Dutchy' in good stead if Nathan Lyon miraculously loses form or gets injured in South Africa.
Bancroft has every right to consider himself a lucky man following an underwhelming Ashes series. Having averaged 25.57 across five Tests, Bancroft has undoubtedly benefited from three factors.
a) He's clearly demonstrated his abilities as a talented young batsman, not just in Sheffield Shield cricket but also more recently in the BBL
b) There has been no Shield cricket since the first week of December, leaving next to no opportunities for wannabe Test batsmen to push their cases for the South African tour
c) He can serve as a more than adequate back-up gloveman to Tim Paine
So although the raw stats paint a bleak picture for the Western Australian, there are other factors which have clearly worked in his favour.
Bird's most recent Test performance was the worst of his career. The right-arm paceman took 0-108 against England at the MCG and was dropped for the Sydney Test.
But like Bancroft, there have been no opportunities for quicks to displace the Tasmanian.
Nevertheless, it would have been harsh had he missed out. No bowler has taken more Shield wickets this season and having carried drinks for the entire India and Bangladesh tours plus the first three Ashes Tests in 2017, Bird deserves to still be in the mix.
The 31-year-old has taken 34 Test wickets at 30 since debuting against Sri Lanka in 2012.
Handscomb's situation is similar to Bancroft's.
Neither was convincing during the Ashes, but neither have first-class cricketers around the country putting pressure on them via big runs at Shield level.
Like Bancroft, Handscomb is also a back-up keeping option. But unlike the WA opener, Handscomb has faced Vernon Philander and co in a Test match before.
Indeed this wasn't just any old Test, this was his debut and it came against the Proteas underneath the lights at the Adelaide Oval. A first innings half century said plenty about Handscomb's ticker.
But by the time the first Test in Durban begins on March 1, it will have been 10 months since the Victorian last hit a century against the red ball.
You've got to wonder what more Chadd Sayers can do… The prolific Redbacks seamer has been one of the elite performers at domestic level for the past few seasons but can't quite crack the next level. He's been named in extended squads and is pushing Jackson Bird for the role of back-up seamer. And now he's fallen further down the pecking order, with Jhye Richardson earning a call-up with just five first class games to his name. From 59 first class matches Sayers has 246 wickets at an average of 23.56 - and a brilliant strike rate of 53. On seam-friendly pitches in South Africa, Sayers' exceptional control and ability to move the ball both ways could've been useful. Instead, and somewhat understandably, selectors have stuck with the reliable Bird. But that's cold comfort for the 30-year-old Sayers who must be wondering if his time will ever come.
Perhaps the unluckiest bloke in Australian cricket right now, Renshaw missed out on the experience of a lifetime when he was harshly dropped on the eve of the Ashes. The England-born opener won many admirers during his first year in the Test team, averaging 36.64 through 10 Tests - including tough overseas trips to India and Bangladesh. The 21-year-old carved out a glorious century against Pakistan at the SCG and had two crucial half-centuries in difficult conditions in India. There was enough evidence to suggest he was the rock to David Warner's flash and was set for a decade-long stay at the top of the Australian order. But his slow-scoring was criticised and when the runs dried up at the start of the Sheffield Shield season, Renshaw was quickly discarded. He remains an intriguing prospect who needs a little support - and a few runs. But he's certainly unlucky today.
If Renshaw is the unluckiest bloke in Australian cricket, Maxwell isn't far behind. The entertaining all-rounder is in the form of his life - look at the sensational 278 he scored against New South Wales in November last year for reference. It's also not that long ago Maxwell looked to have cemented his place in the Test team when he blasted a breakthrough century in Ranchi. Now, he's on the outer and having his training ethic questioned. Maxwell was a shock omission from the one-day squad for the ongoing series against England, in which the tourists have an insurmountable 3-0 lead. On form, he absolutely should be going to South Africa. He's desperately unlucky not to be on the plane.
There's never a good time to suffer an injury, but Burns has been particularly unfortunate with his adductor injury which looks set to ruin the rest of his summer and has taken away his chance of a Test comeback. Burns hasn't played Test cricket since being axed following the horror showing at Hobart when Australia were routed by South Africa. Burns has gone back to Queensland and piled on the runs - smashing two centuries this summer, including a monster, unbeaten 202 against South Australia in his most recent first class match. Burns has opened and batted in the middle order for Australia, and his versatility is a major asset. That's why he'd been pencilled in to join the touring party in South Africa, and then injury struck.
There have been players selected from one-day international cricket in the past. From Michael Hussey to David Warner, Australian selectors don't use the limited overs format as their main guide, but it still plays a role.
Stoinis averages 66 with the blade at ODI level and boasts a strike-rate of 107. He's already made two half-centuries in losing causes this summer for Australia and whacked an incredible 99 for the Melbourne Stars early in the Big Bash.
At Shield level, he has four tons and 16 half centuries to his name. When Mitch Marsh was selected to replace Peter Handscomb he had two first-class centuries.
And there is little doubt that if Marsh got hurt in South Africa, Stoinis would have been a perfect like-for-like backup option.
He was earmarked as a potential bolter for the Ashes earlier this summer before a tragic family event kept him out of first-class cricket when spots were up for grabs.
Now it appears the wait will continue a little longer.