Selectors line up three-way battle to replace David Warner in strong PM XI

Cricket Australia has opted to turn the annual Prime Minister’s XI match into a legitimate selection trial, with all three front-runners to replace David Warner picked to face Pakistan.

Often earmarked as a fixture for rising talent, selectors have picked a genuine Test second XI for the four-day fixture at Manuka Oval, beginning December 6.

Marcus Harris, Matt Renshaw and Cameron Bancroft will all feature, while Cameron Green, Michael Neser and Todd Murphy are among others picked.

Harris remains the likely frontrunner to replace Warner once the veteran retires following his home Test at the SCG in early January.

Western Australia’s Cameron Bancroft. (Photo by Steve Bell/Getty Images)

A back-up batsman on the recent Ashes tour, Harris has long been the next in line for the selectors and was handed a national contract earlier this year.

But he faces significant competition from Renshaw and Bancroft.

Harris returned to form in the most recent two Sheffield Shield games, making scores of 164 and 73, but his average for the summer remains at 39.

Renshaw has hit 305 runs at 33.88 for Queensland, while Bancroft is the Shield’s leading run-scorer with 505 at 63.13 after also topping the charts last year.

Runs in Canberra against a Test attack would likely carry some weight for when selectors make a call for the first Test of the post-Warner era against West Indies at Adelaide Oval in January.

“With a heavy workload of Test cricket coming this summer, this match provides an opportunity to continue to build depth around our national red-ball squad,” chief selector George Bailey said.

“We’re pleased to reward some of our leading first-class performers over multiple seasons with an opportunity to face quality international opposition.

“Selection in the Prime Minister’s XI is a great honour for any cricketer and plays an important part of our men’s representative program, along with recent Australia A series.”

The timing of the match, along with Cricket Australia’s desire to pick a legitimate top-line squad, is believed to has caused some tension with Big Bash League clubs.

Players named in the team will be unable to play in the opening three nights of the BBL, which begins on December 7.

The Brisbane Heat are by far the most impacted with four players selected in the PX’s XI side and matches against the Melbourne Stars and Adelaide Strikers on December 7 and 9.

AAP understands Test players could potentially be cleared to play for their franchises in early-season matches to make up the void, with Usman Khawaja and Marnus Labuschagne both on the Heat’s books.

Australian Test players are scheduled to enter camp in Perth on December 9, ahead of the opening match of the summer against Pakistan on the 14th.

Australia’s white-ball cricketers would also be due back in the country from the T20 series against India just before the start of the BBL.

PM’S XI: Nathan McSweeney, Cameron Bancroft, Cameron Green, Marcus Harris, Nathan McAndrew, Todd Murphy, Michael Neser, Jimmy Peirson, Matt Renshaw, Mark Steketee, Beau Webster.

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