MATTHEW Renshaw, Joe Burns and Peter Handscomb are three batsmen desperate for Test recalls, who finally got their chances in Johannesburg.
But it could prove to be a poisoned chalice.
The trio have, in some ways, been fighting for the same spot as either one of the six best batsmen in the country – or the first-choice backup.
Never did they expect to be in the same line-up this quickly. And surely not like this.
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Cricket: Joe Burns has been dismissed for just four in his return test matched, caught behind off the bowling of Kagiso Rabada.
Joe Burns falls cheaply
The shock circumstances that have seen them come together have been the worst possible preparation for a Test resurrection that you could ask for – and led to scores of 8 (Renshaw), 4 (Burns) and 0 (Handscomb) in their recalls.
Renshaw and Burns came into the match on nearly zero practice in South African conditions. When the ball-tampering controversy hit Australian cricket, they were in the midst of the Sheffield Shield final.
The match went the full five days – largely due to poor weather – as Queensland took out the trophy following a frustrating draw.
But their celebrations were cut short. Flights to Johannesburg had been organised, and soon enough they were on their way.
It’s no quick flight from Brisbane to Johannesburg, and takes the best part of a day – on a good run.
Upon arrival, they found out the world was crumbling around the Australian team. Training had been cancelled – there would be no chance to get used to conditions.
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On match eve the team took part in a bizarre training day at the Wanderers ground where classic Australian songs boomed out around the ground as they did basic cardio exercises.
Getting acquainted with cricket bats and balls were not high on the agenda.
But the cricket Gods weren’t done with Burns and Renshaw just yet. No, then South Africa won the toss, elected to bat and kept the Australians in the field for five sessions.
In addition to jet lag and a lack of adequate preparation in South African conditions, you could now add fatigue and cloudy heads to their hurdles.
Oh, and the prospect of facing the world’s No.1 bowler Kagiso Rabada and his partner-in-crime Vernon Philander.
They never stood a chance.
“And then the journey these two guys have had to make, Burns and Renshaw, at short notice,” commentator Mark Nicholas explained.
“All the traffic in their head with what’s happened in their lives so suddenly, what’s happened to Australian cricket so suddenly, it’s probably hard for them with jet lag on top of that.
“And they’re facing very high-class fast bowling …”
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In fairness, both played bad shots – Burns prodding at a Rabada outswinger which was caught by Proteas skipper Faf du Plessis in the slips, before Renshaw joined him back in the sheds with a lazy waft at a wide delivery.
But with all circumstances conspiring against them, the recalled pair had been set up to fail – making you wonder if this Test should’ve gone ahead after all, as former international batsman Jimmy Maher had argued during the week.
“I have no idea how we perform, I have no idea who comes in and for that reason, and due to the dire circumstances they are, I don’t believe that Test match should go ahead,” Maher told Fox Sports News.
Originally published as 0, 4, 8: Cape Town 3’s replacements on a hiding to nothing