‘It’s good motivation’: Cameron Bancroft is ready to cap second chance for Australia in Ashes clash with England after sandpaper-gate
- Cameron Bancroft’s Australian cap has remained on display in his bedroom
- Next Thursday at Edgbaston the 26-year-old will almost certainly be wearing it
- He returns to Test duty alongside fellow exiles Steve Smith and David Warner
Cameron Bancroft has spent 16 months with a constant reminder of what’s been missing from his life: the famous baggy green.
Rather than bury it with the shame of his past, Bancroft’s Australian cap has remained on display; a cloth compass providing guidance to his future path after he lost his way in South Africa in March last year.
Next Thursday at Edgbaston the 26-year-old Durham captain will almost certainly be wearing it for a ninth time and the first since sandpaper-gate, returning to Test duty alongside fellow exiles Steve Smith and David Warner.
Cameron Bancroft has spent 16 months with a constant reminder of what’s been missing
‘It’s good motivation to look at it and go “yeah, I’m playing cricket but there’s something bigger I eventually want to be able to get back to”,’ said Bancroft.
‘At home it’s got its little spot that it sits in outside my bedroom. It’s something you’re obviously very proud of. It’s a very prestigious item to have and you take good care of it. So that’s how I dealt with that and to be able to see it is obviously really good to focus your goals.’
Although Bancroft’s comeback began in Australian domestic cricket during the final week of 2018, it has gathered pace in the north-east this summer where he has struck 726 County Championship runs at an average in excess of 45.
The testing conditions have not been limited to the field either. ‘Sure, there were people who booed or what not, or asked (me) to sign pieces of sandpaper. But it doesn’t faze me,’ added Bancroft.
Bancroft was seen running his hand over the ball, before removing a yellow object from his pocket – revealed to be sandpaper – and placing it down his trousers
The noise will be turned up at Edgbaston, the most raucous of England’s international venues, where he will either resume his opening partnership with Warner or more likely come in at first-wicket down, a place above Smith.
Usman Khawaja took part in centre-wicket practice in Southampton on Thursday with no obvious ill-effects from his hamstring but the Ashes is not a series in which to take risks.
It was at the Ageas Bowl that Bancroft turned in the kind of display that screamed ‘pick me’ as the only batsman other than Warner during the internal trial match to combat a pitch Australia captain Tim Paine branded ‘bordering on dangerous’.
Playing the ball late meant he was able to adjust without mishap when it jagged off the seam while a willingness to wear a few deliveries on his body from bowlers of the pace of Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc showed a determination the equal of his application.
‘Certainly up in Durham, dealing with sideways movement is part of batting. You don’t always feel like you’re 100 per cent on top of the bowling or the game but you just do the best you can, not feeling in complete control,’ said Bancroft.
Steve Smith broke down in tears as he spoke to the media after the incident in March in 2018
‘There were times out there when I felt like “I’ve seen this before, this is like batting at the Riverside a bit”. I’d much rather get hit than get out at times, so yeah. You just stick to a game plan you think’s going to be successful and as much as the ball was going up and down – frighteningly at times – the ball just nipping back and being able to attack your stumps for me was far more dangerous than worrying about it bouncing a bit.’
One player set to break an absence from Test cricket longer than Bancroft, Smith and Warner is the injury-prone James Pattinson, who last featured in 2016.
The younger brother of one-time England seamer Darren Pattinson won two Ashes caps back in 2013 but has been dogged by chronic back issues.
However, he was the most impressive fast bowler on show in the selection showdown match and his recent rich form – eight wickets for Nottinghamshire versus Kent followed by seven for 77 in Australia A’s 10-wicket win over Sussex – should be enough to earn a recall.
It might be a surprise to some, although not those who have witnessed his recent displays with red ball in hand that Starc – the leading wicket-taker in the recent World Cup by a distance – could be the man to miss out, with Pat Cummins set for a first Test appearance in this country and Hazlewood and Peter Siddle also vying for the third fast-bowling slot.
Australia (possible): Warner, Harris, Bancroft, Smith, Head, M Marsh, Paine (c/wkt), Pattinson, Cummins, Hazlewood, Lyon.
David Warner broke down after Australia’s ball-tampering scandal less than 18 months ago