Matt Renshaw of the Bulls in action during day three of the Sheffield Shield match between Queensland and South Australia at the Gabba.
Matt Renshaw of the Bulls in action during day three of the Sheffield Shield match between Queensland and South Australia at the Gabba. Jason O'Brien

Australian cricket selectors wield the axe

CRICKET: Talk about sweeping changes. Australian cricket selectors delivered the most substantial spring clean imaginable when they announced the side to contest the third and final Test against South Africa at the Adelaide Oval.

Many had wanted significant change, but few would have expected to this extent - six new players ushered into the 12-man squad, including four rookies.

The uncapped quartet of batsmen Matt Renshaw (Queensland), Peter Handscomb (Victoria) and Nic Maddinson (New South Wales) and bowler Chadd Sayers (South Australia) have been given the call-up for the Test starting on Thursday, with wicketkeeper Matthew Wade (Victoria) and paceman Jackson Bird (Tasmania) recalled.

Axed were Joe Burns, Peter Nevill, Callum Ferguson, Adam Voges and Joe Mennie, leaving only Steve Smith, David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon as survivors from the debacle in Hobart when the Aussies suffered their fifth straight Test defeat.

Not since the days of World Series Cricket in the late 1970s, when the Test team was decimated, has there been such upheaval.

But few could argue an overhaul wasn't justified - especially to the batting line-up after collapses of 10-86, 10-85 and 10-32 against the visiting Proteas this season.

It was bittersweet news for Queensland, with 20-year-old Renshaw taking the place of Bulls teammate Burns at the top of the order after just 12 Sheffield Shield matches.

The state's leading run scorer in 2015-16, Renshaw had only just returned to the Queensland team after injury, but his timing, as has so often been the case when out in the middle, has been perfect. The English-born left-hander, likened to a young Matthew Hayden, made 108 and 50 against South Australia last week.

Burns made one and none for Australia in Hobart and fared little better for Queensland (two and four).

"Matt has established himself in a short period of time as one of the best young opening bats in the country,” interim chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns said. "His form is currently very good and we see him as a very exciting prospect for the future.”

Ferguson can be considered unlucky, dropped after one Test - albeit with scores of three (when run out) and one - but Voges' time was up, despite an average of 61. A knock to the head batting for West Australia made sure of that.

Handscomb, 25, knocked down the door to Australian selection with a double century for Victoria, while Maddinson, 24, although only making six and 33 against the Bushrangers in their Shield match, is a star in the making.

"Peter's form over the last couple seasons, and with Australia A, has been very consistent,” Hohns said. "He has a good all-round game and we think he is the type of player who could succeed at the next level.

"Nic is an exciting and talented young player and we feel now is the ideal time for him to be involved with the Australian team. He has the ability to break the game open and we think he will flourish in this environment.”

Sayers will battle with Bird to join Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood in the bowling attack with spinner Nathan Lyon, who must have only narrowly avoided being a sixth sacrificial lamb.

"We consider Chadd and Jackson to be very good bowlers that also can bowl a large amount of overs in conjunction with Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood,” Hohns said.

"Chadd bowls very well in Adelaide and Jackson is coming off a strong performance in his last Test match earlier in the year and both deserve their chance.”

Replacing Nevill behind the stumps, Wade will play his first Test since March 2013.

"Matthew has worked extremely hard on his keeping in the past few season and we consider it to have improved substantially. He is also a very valuable player with the bat and will add to the depth in our batting order,” Hohns said.

AUSTRALIAN SQUAD: Steve Smith (c), Dave Warner (vc), Jackson Bird, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Usman Khawaja, Nic Maddinson, Nathan Lyon, Matt Renshaw, Chadd Sayers, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade.

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