Tim Paine’s battle to retain his place on Team Ashes will begin at Lindisfarne Memorial Park and against the son of one of the men who made him Australian captain.
An Australian skipper just three days ago, Paine must fight to keep his place for the first Test at Gabba on December 8 and the rest of the series.
Age and fitness also emerge as challenges for Paine, whose leadership was one of his greatest strengths before a sexting scandal in 2017 erupted on Friday.
Paine has not played a competitive game since April 6, after undergoing neck surgery during the Australian offseason.
He will also be 37 on the first day at Gabba.
In Australian cricket history, only nine men have kept the wicket in testing beyond their 37th birthday.
Among them, Brad Haddin is the only one to have done so in the past 50 years.
And no one this age has ever participated directly in a test match after eight months without playing first-class cricket.
And that’s why a game starting on Monday becomes so important.
After his quality cricket return was swept away in Hobart on Saturday, Paine will play in a four-day second XI for Tasmania against South Australia.
The match does not have First Class status, but will give Tasmania the chance to manage Paine’s time behind the wickets as needed when they return from surgery.
Such is the usual low-key stature of the match, the match will be played on Oval No.1 in Lindisfarne, about 5 km from Bellerive.
Former coach Darren’s son Jake Lehmann will be part of an opposition team where Nick Winter, Nathan McSweeney and Sam Kerber are the only bowlers with Sheffield Shield experience.
The key for Paine, however, will be to come out of it unscathed, while showing that he hasn’t lost his glove feeling after an eight-month absence.
A three-day intra-squad match will follow in Brisbane, where Paine is the sole “keeper” of Australia’s top team with Alex Carey in Group “A”.
Notably, Paine is adamant that he wants to star in this Ashes series and potentially sign at the end of it.
“I was not going to retire,” he told News Corp of his options when the scandal first broke. ‘
“I had been pretty clear that I wanted to keep playing and potentially finish after this Ashes streak.”
Many believe that Paine can continue to fight.
Former Victorian wicket keeper Darren Berry and ex-captain Mark Taylor are among them, as Paine holds the third-highest batting average of any henchman to play for Australia.
Others, however, are not so sure, with former manager Mark Waugh saying it will be difficult for Paine to hold back a pursuit group including Carey, Matt Wade and Josh Inglis.
Carey scored 155 in a Premier Cricket match on Saturday and will have the chance to change her Sheffield Shield form for South Australia against Queensland, starting on Monday.