Australia lean towards Joe Burns' continuity, Matthew Wade firms to open

Australia are leaning towards the retention of Joe Burns and the promotion of Matthew Wade to open alongside him in place of the injured David Warner, while Cameron Green is all but assured of a Test debut in the traditional allrounder's spot at No. 6 in the batting order.

This much could be gleaned from the words of Australia's captain Tim Paine on the morning of match eve, even if the team's diktat is to keep the identity of the final XI "in-house" until the toss of the coin at Adelaide Oval on Thursday afternoon. There were indicators late on Wednesday that Paine had also pondered the option of promoting himself to open, though this move would shunt Green, very much a batting allrounder at this point of his career, down as low as No. 7 in the wicketkeeper's usual spot.

Paine placed a heavy emphasis on continuity in the side, a tick for Burns in the absence of Warner, and was hopeful that the interrupted preparation of Steven Smith, missing Tuesday's main session with an apparent back complaint, would actually serve to freshen the No. 4 batsman's mind ahead of his first Test match meeting with India since 2017.

The team's final training session featured plenty of batting time for Smith, Wade and Burns against a selection of throwdowns, net bowlers and the reserves Moises Henriques and Mitchell Swepson, as Australia's frontline bowling attack took their usual match eve rest.

"Dave won't be there but we expect Steve to be there," Paine said. "Steve's had a stiff back a number of times before and you do when you bat at training as much as he does. But his preparation has been very good, he's batted for the last week since we've been in Adelaide, so for him to have a day off might actually be a blessing in disguise yesterday.

"But when we get our team out there tomorrow, we would love to have David there and he won't be, but I don't think our team will look too dissimilar to what it did at the end of last summer and we've had a really consistent team for a period of time and that certainly helps us perform well."

Wade, meanwhile, has never opened in first-class but he was endorsed by Ricky Ponting earlier in the week as the man who should partner Burns while Warner is unavailable. "He's certainly an option to open the batting. No doubt about that. I think we've got a number of guys who are willing to open the batting. That says a lot about our group, not just Wadey," Paine said. "But Wadey in particular, we saw against New Zealand last year with the short-ball stuff, he's willing to put his body on the line for his team.

"We know he's as tough as nails and he'll do a good job no matter where he bats. Obviously we have got a scenario where we could have a different opener and we've had a number of guys put their hand up to do it if that's the best thing for the team. That's a great thing for us as a side."

Smith this week and Warner when fit loom as the biggest differences to this series when lined up against India's first ever victory in a Test bout in Australia in 2018-19. The hosts were, by Paine's own admission, still trying to find themselves in the wake of the Newlands scandal back then, and have hardened into a much more settled, accomplished and confident unit in the intervening years.

"Having them back has clearly been a great thing for our team, certainly for me to have two very experienced players out there with me has helped, there's no doubt about that," Paine said. "Those guys are two of the best players in the world, they've played in lots of Test matches for Australia, lots of big matches, lots of big series, so their experience not only for me to lean on but for our whole group has been awesome, and the way they've been around our group for the last 12 months has been unbelievably good, so we're very lucky to have them back.

"In terms of my captaincy or performance in this team, it's been okay. I've got a role to play in this group like everyone else does, as long as I keep doing that, then we're all happy. My job is to wicketkeep, captain and try and score some handy runs and bat with the tail and that's my role and I think I've been performing it pretty well."

As for Green, Paine has made no secret of his admiration for the 21-year-old, particularly after seeing him up close in Sheffield Shield matches and more recently for Australia A in their tour game against the Indians at Drummoyne Oval. Concussion protocols dictate that Green must pass his final series of tests on match morning to be right to play, but all indications are that he is, in parallel to a burgeoning cricket career, well ahead of the curve. Paine also hinted Green's bowling restrictions could be lifted.

"[He's] super impressive, I've played against him and seen him score hundreds against Tasmania before," Paine said. "To be out there with him and talking with him he's really impressive for a guy his age, understands his game really well, really smart cricket brain for such a young guy and really calm and cool under pressure. From what I've seen of him playing against him and the last couple of weeks being around him he's made for Test cricket and we can't wait to see him get out there tomorrow and unleash him.

"Once you're selected in a Test match you're good to go. Having said that we don't expect him to bowl a huge amount of overs anyway with the attack we've got we see him as just a nice change up. He takes 12-14 overs an innings out of our key fast bowlers, which is great. In terms of being able to keep them fresh in a pink-ball Test for the night session and in terms of being able to keep them fresh for the whole series.

"If Greeny can continue going the path he is I think having him in the side allows us to have Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood around the Australian Test team for even longer in terms of their careers. He's going to be a huge asset for us in that sense, we'll wait and see how many overs he'll bowl. We'll know when he does bowl he'll make an impact. That's what we've seen from him, that's what we expect him to do again."