Matt Renshaw, born in Teesside, is desperate to mark the first anniversary of his breakthrough into Australia’s Test side by facing England for the first time.
It would be a special moment for Renshaw, a Newcastle United fan who moved to Australia at the age of 10, and who has been dubbed in one English newspaper as “the one who got away”. But assumptions that his selection is inevitable have been hit by a sudden loss of form that has seen him fail to reach 50 in his last nine first-class innings.
That barren run is also shadowed in Test cricket – nine innings here, too, where he has failed to record a half-century, stretching back to a Test against India in Bengaluru in March.
As he dreams of the biggest moment of his sporting life, Australian coaches are increasingly at odds over who should partner David Warner in Brisbane later this month.
Renshaw’s parents like to say that Matt’s allegiance “just happened”. Ian, his father, told the Daily Mail last week: “I guess it was a decision we never made.” But now the Renshaws must fear that fate could play a crueller trick with the 21-year-old opener desperate to shore up his place with an emphatic response for Queensland in the second innings against New South Wales.
The pressure on Renshaw became even greater when Cameron Bancroft, touted by his coach at Western Australia, Justin Langer, as a serious Test contender, batted throughout the day for 161 not out against South Australia at the WACA.
Jason Gillespie, the Adelaide Strikers coach and former Australian fast bowler, who has also coached with distinction in England, felt obliged to lend his support before Renshaw’s latest failure.
“I have no issue with state coaches being positive about their own players however don’t believe Renshaw should be under pressure for his spot,” he tweeted.
That support brought no change in luck as he reached 16 before edging Trent Copeland to be caught at the wicket.
Famously, the Australian media once dubbed Martin McCague, who switched allegiances from Australia to England, as “the rat who joined a sinking ship” but Renshaw’s birthplace is mentioned more quietly. All that matters is that, apart from a couple of junior matches in Auckland, Renshaw’s cricket has taken place entirely in Australia.
England links run deep for the Renshaw family, however much Australia would prefer to play it down. His father might be best known as a senior lecturer at Queensland University of Technology, where he spends his time teaching and researching sports coaching and psychology.
He says of Matt: “He talks like an Aussie, and he is an Aussie.”
But at Sheffield Collegiate, the club that produced the England captain Joe Root, as well as an Ashes-winning captain in Michael Vaughan, Root and Renshaw would look on as children as their fathers opened the batting together.
Those links also meant that Billy Root, Joe’s younger brother, stayed with the Renshaws two years ago when he played grade cricket in Queensland.
Renshaw’s average after 10 Tests is highly-respectable – 623 runs at 36.64 – and he complements the more aggressive style of his opening partner David Warner, but at the moment he is increasingly vulnerable.
As the Ashes looms, there is one English-born batsman who Australia are desperate to see put a score on the board.
David Hopps is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.