Ahead of the Test series between Australia and India, Patrick Noone looks at the relative unknown quantities of Marcus Harris and Chris Tremain. Both uncapped players have been called into the squad for the first two Tests and are pushing for a debut in Adelaide on Thursday.
The left-handed opener will be most familiar to Australian fans from his exploits in the Big Bash League. Harris has scored 770 runs across four BBL seasons, first for Perth Scorchers and latterly for Melbourne Renegades after making the switch in 2016.
While clearly capable of producing T20 fireworks – Ben Dunk and Aaron Finch are the only BBL openers to have batted 20 innings and scored at a quicker rate than Harris’ 7.80 in the last four BBL seasons – Harris has also quietly gone about forging a reputation as a red ball batsman as well.
An unbeaten 250 for Victoria against New South Wales in the Sheffield Shield in October was always likely to put Harris on the radar of the Australian selectors, and he is unsurprisingly the first batsman to reach 500 runs in this year’s edition of Australia’s premier First Class competition. That innings against NSW was all the more remarkable because his opening partner, Travis Dean, and the number three batsman, Eamonn Vines, each made ducks and Victoria were reeling at 6-2 before Harris dug them out of a hole.
However, his performances this year have not been in isolation with run tallies of 808 and 706 in his last two Sheffield Shield seasons for Victoria. What’s more, Harris has been able to transfer some of his T20 skills into the longer form by looking to score quickly and putting the opening bowlers under pressure, much as he does in the white ball arena.
In the last three seasons of the Sheffield Shield, no opener to have batted 20 innings or more has scored at a quicker rate than Harris’ 3.82. With numbers like that, it is clear why Australia have identified him as the man to fill the void left by David Warner.
Harris is very much in the same mould as the erstwhile Australian opener. As their respective wagon wheels show, both are left-handers who score the bulk of their runs square of the wicket and there is an eerie similarity in the breakdown of where the two batsmen score their runs.
Like Warner, Harris is strong playing both the cut shot and the pull shot. The cut has brought him 414 runs from 269 shots in the last three years and, while he plays the pull shot less often, his run rate is only marginally lower with 125 runs coming from the 88 shots he’s played.
Of course, it remains to be seen if Harris can replicate this kind of free-scoring aggression against one of the best seam attacks in world cricket when India come to town. However, Australia have done the right thing, having looked at the David Warner-shaped hole at the top of the order and gone out and found the player who most closely resembles the former vice-captain. Harris appears to tick all of the boxes; his presence in the side is unlikely to be dull, however he fares.
The other uncapped player in Australia’s squad is Harris’ Victorian team-mate Chris Tremain. The tall right-arm seamer has taken 26 wickets at an average of 21.61 in this year’s Sheffield Shield, trailing only his fellow Victorian Scott Boland (30) in the list of leading wicket-takers for the season.
Like Harris, Tremain has been rewarded for his consistency in domestic cricket with his wicket hauls increasing year on year since he joined Victoria from NSW back in 2014. Last year saw him become only the tenth bowler this century to take 50 wickets or more in a Sheffield Shield season and, with five games remaining this season, he’s more than halfway towards repeating the feat this time around.
In fact, over the last three seasons of Sheffield Shield cricket, no other bowler has taken more wickets than Tremain’s 119. What’s more impressive is that no other bowler with 50 wickets or more in that time can match Tremain’s average of 20.45.
Tremain is at his most effective with the new ball, with 47% of his wickets in that three year period coming in overs 1-30. It’s a captain’s dream to have a bowler who offers both a wicket-taking threat and sufficient control to keep the scoring rate manageable. Tremain has been able to be that bowler, taking wickets with a superior strike rate to every seamer to have bowled in 20 innings but also an economy rate lower than all but three of the other quicks in that phase of the innings.
There is little doubt that Tremain deserves his place in the squad for the first two Tests of the series. In truth, with the Big Three of Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood all back fit and firing, it is unlikely that he will feature in Australia’s XI just yet, but he has made as strong a case as anyone else to break into the much-vaunted pace attack. Should injury befall one of the first choice quicks between now and the start of the series, Australia have a man bang in form ready to come in and make an impact.
Patrick Noone is an analyst at CricViz.