Marcus Harris is sorely testing the faith and patience of the Australian selectors and his position as opening batsman remains precarious after two Ashes Tests.
If he plays in his adopted home city Melbourne in the Boxing Day Test, and that surely remains in doubt, Harris would have to be on his last chance. Powerful allies, including coach Justin Langer and national chairman of selectors George Bailey, believe Harris has the skill and temperament to become a top-class opener, but the left-hander has yet to prove he can make the transition from first-class cricket to the Test arena. Harris has not made a Test ton, passed 50 only twice in 23 innings and scored a paltry 38 runs against England this summer. In Adelaide, veteran paceman Stuart Broad claimed his wicket twice, snared by sharp catches from wicketkeeper Jos Buttler on both occasions.
Usman Khawaja is in the Test squad and patiently waiting for his opportunity of a recall. While he is better suited to batting down the order, Khawaja has enjoyed some success as an opener. But that would be a short-term solution, and with David Warner also in the veteran class, the search for young opening batsmen should be a priority.
Victorian Will Pucovski remains sidelined with lingering concussion issues, but he is much better suited to the middle order. South Australia's Henry Hunt and Queensland's Bryce Street have shown promising signs in the Sheffield Shield, but it would be premature to promote them. Matt Renshaw probably deserves another chance at Test level, although strangely, he has not been opening the batting for Queensland. Since moving to Victoria, Nic Maddinson has reinvented himself as an opener and might be worth another opportunity to add to his three Tests against South Africa and Pakistan in 2016-17 when he batted at No. 6.
The reasoning behind England's decision to go with a five-pronged pace attack in the second Test was sound - how and why it fell apart had more to do with the tourists' selections, application and planning.
Resting Mark Wood was puzzling. As England's quickest bowler, Wood could have been most effective in short, sharp spells to shake up the Australians, particularly when they were well set.
Chris Woakes' excellent performance in the second innings the last time England played a day-night Test in Adelaide four years ago probably influenced selectors to go with him ahead of Wood.
As a superior batsman to Wood, he provided more steel in the lower order to make England's tail less vulnerable. But Woakes should be in the team primarily for his bowling potency.
England's tactics to the Australian batsmen, particularly on the vital first day after losing the toss, were bewildering.
Captain Joe Root's defensive field placings and mindset left a lot to be desired, although his fast bowlers' lack of discipline proved costly again.
Certain dismissals being overturned on review because of no-balls from the pacemen have been critical in this series and the England camp needs to work hard in correcting this fundamental error immediately to have any chance of regaining the Ashes.
The bowlers created enough chances by beating the bat on many occasions when they put it in the right areas, but too often, they bowled far too short and wide, not forcing the Australian batsmen to play enough balls.
England's cause was not helped by poor efforts in the field, notably from Buttler, who redeemed himself in Australia's second innings, but by then, the damage had been done.
Australian century-maker Marnus Labuschagne was the major beneficiary, making the most of his luck and cashing in.
Buttler is a superb attacking batsman, but his glovework has been far inferior to Australia's new wicketkeeper Alex Carey, who showed he was most proficient with the bat on his home ground in Adelaide.
Labuschagne showed admirable patience and determination, as did Warner and Steve Smith to set up a formidable first-innings score.
The Queenslander followed up with another half-century in the second innings and the Australians would have been pleased all-rounder Cameron Green finally made some runs before the declaration.
The tall West Australian has already made a significant contribution with the ball in this series after taking his first Test wicket at the Gabba.
Despite not bowling a lot of overs, he has chipped in with vital wickets at crucial times.
Green bowls at up to 140km/h and has the ability to extract disconcerting bounce from even the flattest surface, as well as move the ball off the seam.
While Smith returned to fill in for Pat Cummins as captain, it was a ridiculous situation that could have been avoided.
It is hard to deny Cummins the right to dine out the night before the game, but surely he did not have to miss a Test under these circumstances.
Cummins tested negative after having a meal near a close contact and did not breach any of Cricket Australia's protocols, yet was forced to isolate for seven days.
State governments and health authorities have been extremely cautious in their approach towards the virus and that has been understandable, but with most of the population double-vaccinated, we must move forward and get on with life.
Has Howard got it right? Email: email@example.com; Twitter: @hpkotton59
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