SYDNEY: David Warner and uncapped Will Pucovski look highly likely to open the batting for Australia in this week's third test against India, even as skipper Tim Paine was not able to confirm the team on the eve of the match.
Warner was always going to go straight back into the side as soon as he had sufficiently recovered from a groin strain that ruled him out of the first two tests, while Pucovski's much-anticipated debut was delayed by a concussion.
Paine said Pucovski, who has now cleared the concussion protocols, would open the batting if he was selected for the match, which starts on Thursday at the Sydney Cricket Ground with the four-test series tied at 1-1.
Paine said he was delighted with the return of Warner to a batting unit that has managed only one innings score of 200 or more in the series, in the failed attempt to avoid defeat in Melbourne.
"He puts pressure back on oppositions better than most," Paine said of the experienced opener.
"Regardless of who we're playing against, we're a better team by a fair margin when David Warner is in it. Not only through the runs that he scores ... but he also protects our middle order a bit, I suppose."
"So if we can have Marnus (Labuschagne) and Steve Smith and other guys coming in when the bowlers are a bit tired, obviously it's a huge advantage for them."
The selection of Pucovski, who has battered down the door to selection with a torrent of runs this season, would mean a move down the order or out of the team for Matt Wade, who acted as a makeshift opener in Adelaide and Melbourne.
A switch of position for Wade would probably cost Travis Head his place in the side as all-rounder Cameron Green offers bowling support to Australia's pace unit.
Paine said reports that India were reluctant to go back into strict quarantine to play the fourth test in Brisbane might add a bit of spice to the match.
"There's a bit of tension starting to boil under the surface with unnamed sources coming out from their camp saying where they want to play the fourth test and where they don't want to go," he said.
"I think it's starting to grind a few people, so we'll see how it goes."
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by Ramakrishnan M.)