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Bancroft to learn Test fate for Australia

Cameron Bancroft will learn if he has retained his spot in Australia’s Test squad when the touring party for the four-match series in South Africa is announced of Monday.

Bancroft’s spot at the top of the order is the only real point of contention in Australia’s first-choice XI after their dominant Ashes campaign.

The 25-year-old averaged just 25.57 and failed to score a century in his maiden series, while the rest of Australia’s top six piled on the runs in the 4-0 thumping of England.

However he is expected to keep his spot given he has since received the backing of coach Darren Lehmann and captain Steve Smith.

With no Sheffield Shield cricket available for other contenders to prove themselves, Bancroft has done his chances no harm with two half-centuries in three innings since returning to the Big Bash for the Perth Scorchers.

Bancroft’s technique – which appeared unstable on the drive early in his innings during the Ashes – will likely face a tough test against Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Vernon Philander and Kagiso Rabada in South Africa.

A back-up opener is also therefore likely to be picked in an expected 15-man squad, with predecessor Matt Renshaw battling with Joe Burns and Jake Weatherald for the spot after the latter two had strong first halves to the Sheffield Shield season.

Peter Handscomb will also learn his place in the team’s pecking order after he was dropped following the first two Ashes Tests.

Handscomb has had no chance to play red-ball cricket since being dropped before the Perth Test in December, but would still hope to be in the team as a back-up batsman for the tour.

Barring injury, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon will retain their spots as Australia’s first-choice bowling quartet for the first Test in Durban on March 1.

Jackson Bird has largely established himself as the first back-up option for the pace trio, while Chadd Sayers could also be a chance to tour with the squad.

Selectors will also announce a squad for next month’s Twenty20 tri-series against England and New Zealand, expected to be made up largely of Big Bash League stars.

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