Retaining the core 'probably the best way' - Justin Langer on Test selection

Justin Langer chats to Steven Smith at Australia's training session Getty Images

Australian cricket is moving on from the crisis that enveloped them after the events in Cape Town, but for some time to come there will remain the dividing line of before Newlands and after Newlands when assessing the state of the national team and the overall game.

Barring a late change of heart or an injury, Australia are set to name an unchanged side for the third Test in a row when they face New Zealand in Perth on Thursday. The last time they went three Tests with the same XI was on the tour of South Africa, in the first three matches of the series before things fell apart in Cape Town.

"I'd be a brave man to change the XI," Justin Langer said. "The boys are playing well. We've still got a couple of training sessions, we haven't had a look at the wicket yet but I'd say at this stage more than likely we'll have the same XI."

It is another stepping stone in the rebuilding of the Test side which has gathered momentum in recent months. There were missed opportunities in England to earn better than a 2-2 share of the series - a reminder that, in the batting especially, the team remained a work in progress - but the start of this summer has been very convincing against Pakistan, to the point that Travis Head and Tim Paine only batted once in the series.

There were tactical reasons for the pace-bowling changes made during the Ashes as a horses-for-courses approach was taken for each ground before Australia overthought the process at The Oval and picked the wrong side. This summer there is a sense they are keeping things simple, helped, of course, by innings victories where almost everyone has looked in good form. The season started with questions over the batting order and, while Australia will need to be more thoroughly tested than they were by Pakistan, it is likely this top six will now remain for the summer.

James Pattinson, whose unavailability for the opening Test of the season due to his code of conduct suspension turned a potentially tricky head-to-head decision with Mitchell Starc into a no contest, remains in the squad. Michael Neser will join having played the Sheffield Shield match against Queensland at the SCG, but there is little prospect of them breaking apart the trio of Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins.

"I've said for 18 months there used to be a philosophy in Australian cricket which worked so well for us, it's harder to get into the Australian cricket team than it is to get out of it," Langer said. "That usually happens when guys are playing well and the team is playing well. We've won the last couple of Test matches. There's definite benefit and advantage in keeping the core group of players together and hopefully this will be another opportunity this week to do that."

The much sought-after continuity in selection does not mean, however, that Australia will shelve the approach they took in England although there is now a good chance - with a nine-day gap between the Perth and Melbourne Tests - that these three quicks could feature throughout the whole summer, although a potential change to the balance of the side for the SCG still looms.

"I'll let everyone else to judge if it's [Australia's] the best attack in the world, statistically, we aren't yet in terms of rankings but the guys are moving up and are getting better and better as a unit." Justin Langer

"Certainly, there was benefit in that [rotation] in England. We had six healthy, fit fast bowlers available to us and in different conditions," Langer said. "We had a very specific game plan on how we thought we'd retain the Ashes so we used it to our advantage there.

"There's some different conditions here in Australia - the SCG might be different to Optus Stadium or the Gabba. But at the moment the three guys - Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood - they're a quality combination with Nathan Lyon, they're bowling really well, they're fit and healthy and there's a bit of a gap between Test matches. From that point of view that's probably the best way we'll go about this Test match."

Starc was the one most impacted by the selections in the Ashes, playing just once at Old Trafford in the match where the Ashes were retained, but after some early-season tinkering with New South Wales bowling coach Andre Adams, he has been much more consistent this season. There is a good contest at the moment for the tag of 'best pace attack in the world' with India laying a very strong claim and while Langer would not be drawn into a definite answer on that, he lauded the bench strength that's available.

"I'd rather have it as our side than play against it, no doubt," he said. "Put Nathan Lyon in it who's just brilliant then it's a very good attack. I'll let everyone else to judge if it's the best attack in the world, statistically, we aren't yet in terms of rankings but the guys are moving up and are getting better and better as a unit. I've said since England if we make enough runs we'll win a lot of games because we have a very good pace-bowling attack, the best offspin bowling in the world I'd say and James Pattinson, Jhye Richardson, Michael Neser - there's some really good depth as well. It's a nice position to be in."