Why Cameron Bancroft must be on the plane to the Ashes
Cameron Bancroft must be picked in Australia's squad for the Ashes this year.
Australia spent an entire summer starved of a technically-sound opener who places a high price on his wicket and grinds down opposition attacks, but Bancroft is that man.
Marcus Harris, Aaron Finch and Joe Burns attempted to fill that mould against India and Sri Lanka over the summer with varied success.
Burns was the most competent - albeit against a lesser opponent - while Harris experienced some success and Finch, almost none at all.
David Warner will be available for the tour and will bring back to the top-order some sorely-needed experience, and likely more runs.
But he will do so in his trademark aggressive style which has been hit and miss against the swinging ball in England.
Warner is not the sole solution to all of Australia's batting problems, nor is Steve Smith. It would be unfair to place that sort of pressure on the batsmen who are set to return to the national team under unprecedented circumstances.
Bancroft isn't the solution either, but like Smith and Warner, he is certainly part of it.
Even after 12 months away from the red-ball game, the 26-year-old remains one of Australia's finest cricketers when it comes to occupying the crease.
Prior to round seven, only one player had faced more balls per innings in the Sheffield Shield over the past two seasons. That man was Victoria's Will Pucovski, who on average faced 119 balls per innings for 76.29 runs.
Bancroft averaged a mighty 82.17 off 115 balls - but that was before a batting masterclass on his long-awaited return. Now he's Australia's most stubborn first-class cricketer.
The right-hander made an emphatic 138 runs off 358 balls for Western Australia against New South Wales. He also carried his bat in first-class cricket for the third time in his career, becoming just the eighth Australian to ever do so, according to statistician Ric Finlay.
No player has faced 300 balls or more in a Shield innings more times than Bancroft (6) since the 2013-14 season.
He backed his monster first innings up with 86 runs off 263 balls in the second, making it 621 deliveries before he could be dismissed by NSW. No Australian batsman faced more than 600 balls in the entire four-Test series against India.
Now Bancroft's Shield average over the past two seasons is a whopping 102.43 runs off 154.10 balls.
Bancroft may be without a wealth of international experience and his Test stats are underwhelming. He's made 402 runs at 30.92 after 14 Test innings.
But it's worth noting his numbers were trending in the right direction during the ill-fated South Africa tour that saw him sent home in disgrace for ball-tampering.
He had made two half centuries in his four innings prior to being caught on camera using sandpaper to scratch the ball.
That may have been a long time ago, but as proven against New South Wales, time has done nothing to damage Bancroft's game.
He also holds some vital experience in English conditions having spent two seasons with division two county side Gloucestershire prior to his Test debut in November 2017.
The opener started 2016 slowly, making 192 runs at 21.33 with just one half century in five matches. He improved dramatically the following year with 685 runs at 40.29, including an unbeaten 206 against Kent and four half-centuries.
Bancroft will return to the county scene with Durham this season, affording him more time to face to Dukes ahead of the Ashes.
If he faces the Dukes in England anything like he has in Australia this month, then he becomes one of the first names on the team sheet for the first Test at Edgbaston.
There are still three matches left in the Shield season and therefore plenty of time for the wheels to fall off the wagon. There is also the unknown effect a ruthless Barmy Army could have on him.
The alternative is for national selectors to turn to those who either performed well in favourable conditions against a lacklustre Sri Lanka, or who showed some promise in the historic series loss to India.
Burns was fantastic in the second Test against Sri Lanka, scoring 180 runs off 260 balls. Although, it's hard to argue that number wasn't belittled by the fact two other Australians with little international experience made centuries that Test too.
Harris impressed against India, and against Queensland on Tuesday with scores of 95 and 174. But at international level he has displayed an increasing tendency to play loosely outside off-stump, as his returns (69 runs at 23) against Sri Lanka showed.
Meanwhile, Finch currently can't be trusted against inswinging deliveries in Australia and India. You'd hate to imagine what James Anderson could do to him in his own backyard.
The other option is to move Usman Khawaja up the order as he has been occasionally asked to do with mixed results.
None of those options instil much confidence, though.
How Bancroft would handle an international return so soon after his ban cannot be measured. It would be a risk.
But his red-ball potential is huge and he shouldn't be punished by any speculation on that front.
Nor should he be overlooked based on his cheating actions last March - he's served his time.
All that's left to do is to pay attention to the numbers which, at this point, speak for themselves.