Marcus Harris firms as David Warner’s opening partner, Tim Paine “shattered” by Will Pucovski’s concussion

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Australian Test captain Tim Paine says he was “shattered” by news of Will Pucovski’s latest concussion, revealing Marcus Harris is now the man most likely to partner David Warner for this summer’s Ashes series.

The 23-year-old, who made a promising Test debut against India last summer, was struck in the nets last week, and while no symptoms were immediately obvious, he began to feel the effects the following day.

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Speaking on SEN Hobart, Paine said there was “no doubt” Pucovski would have opened the batting in the first Ashes Test in Brisbane in December.

While the skipper was hopeful Pucovski wouldn’t face an extended stint on the sidelines, he conceded Harris is likely to be in the team for the Gabba.

“He’s probably the frontrunner now for that role. He’s someone who hasn’t had an extended run at Test cricket,” Paine said.

“For him to potentially now get an extended run at Test cricket, I’m excited to see what he could do.

“He’s just come back from a superb six months over in England playing for Leicestershire in county cricket and we know his first-class record has been outstanding for Victoria for a long time.”

Pucovski has suffered as many as 10 concussions throughout his career, although not all have occurred while batting, and some were from schoolboy football.

Paine dismissed suggestions Pucovski has a technical issue with short-pitched bowling.

“You don’t average 50 in first class cricket without being a good player of the short ball,” he said.

“He had a really bad concussion when he was a kid … he’s more susceptible than other people, he doesn’t need to be hit as hard to have some effects on his head.”

Pucovski’s only Test to date came at the SCG last summer, when he made 62 and 10, but suffered a shoulder injury in the field that ruled him out for the remainder of the season.

The Australian skipper remains optimistic Pucovski could still play a part in the Ashes series.

“He’s still hoping to be ready at some stage this summer,” Paine explained.

“He’s got plenty of support around him, and we know how good he is, so there’s no need to rush him at the moment. He’s 22-23 years of age, he’s got a lot of time in the game if we can get it right.

“(It was) shattering when I found out. I’ve spoken to him a bit the last few days. He is improving slowly.

“I don’t think it’s as bad as some of the others he’s had before, but with his history we have to be very careful. I was devastated to hear it’s happened again.”

Paine is on his own comeback trail, having had surgery last month on a bulging disc in his neck.

“I’m doing a bit of pilates, jogging and swimming. I’m moving pretty normally,” he said.

“I hit about 20 balls yesterday, albeit underarm. The only issue at this stage is strength in my left arm.

“Just being careful with the load I am putting through the spine while there is still some healing going.

“The movement in my neck is great and I am hoping in the next two weeks I can really start to put my foot down. I can go from zero to 100 really quickly.”

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