Justin Langer backs Cameron Bancroft ahead of Ashes opener

Australia coach Justin Langer believes an Ashes return for Cameron Bancroft would be “a great story” but knows it is likely to go down badly with England fans.

Bancroft is in line to open the batting in Thursday’s series opener at Edgbaston, joining Steve Smith and David Warner as Australia prepare to select all three of the players who were banned for their roles in the sandpaper ball-tampering scandal.

Smith and Warner have already experienced plenty of boos and jeers from the stands during the World Cup, but the addition of the man who actively scratched the surface of the ball – and subsequently lied about it – is likely to up the ante again.

“It would be a great story if he comes back into the team. His development over the last 12 months after what happened in Cape Town has been absolutely extraordinary,” said Langer.

England v Australia – Specsavers Ashes Series – First Test – Preview Day Two – Australia Nets – Edgbaston
Justin Langer, pictured, is proud of Cameron Bancroft (PA/David Davies)

“We’re that proud of him. He’s a really good kid.

“We know what the reception is going to be and there’s nothing we can do about it. We don’t know actually (how he’ll cope), but we’ll find out.

“He’s physically as tough as anyone you’ve seen in your life and mentally he’ll have to be strong.”

The hostility at ‘Fortress Edgbaston’ could reach fever pitch, with the rowdy contingent in the Hollies Stand likely to make their unforgiving treatment of Mitchell Johnson in 2013 seem like child’s play.

Langer has seen it all before though.

“We’ve been to lots of Ashes series and they’re all the same, England have the same when they come to Australia too. It’s tough,” he said.

“But that’s just the environment we’re in. You go to Cape Town or Johannesburg and it’s like being in the Gladiator movie.

“Steven and David have had a pretty good dress rehearsal during the World Cup and I thought they were brilliant in how they responded to it, with bat and in their behaviours. They kept smiling their way through it and it will be no different in the Ashes series.”

The Australian XI appears to be taking shape, with Usman Khawaja passing a fitness test on his hamstring injury to take his place at number three.

Cameron Bancroft drilling his short leg catching with the help of Matthew Wade at @Edgbaston ahead of the first #Ashes Test… pic.twitter.com/VmoeRf8yPK

— Cricket Australia (@CricketAus) July 30, 2019

“The hammy has felt really good. There are different challenges to come in Test cricket to those in white-ball cricket but I am confident in my body,” said the batsman.

Pace pair James Pattinson and Pat Cummins have also locked down their places in the team, leaving Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Peter Siddle to scrap for the final shirt.

The latter is by some distance the most experienced in English conditions, taking 34 wickets at 20.08 for Essex this season.

“He’s brilliant. He’s experienced, like Jimmy Anderson,” said Langer.

“The energy he brings to the room, he’s 34 going on 15, I reckon. If he plays on Thursday, with the overhead conditions, he’ll be a real handful.”

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