Stat attack: Australia's first drop conundrum

Usman Khawaja is the latest person to go in at first drop, but he made just 25 runs in Manchester and 21 at Chester-le-Street, so the battle for a Punter replacement continues, with an eye to the return leg of the Ashes in November.

In the past three years, Australia have used a whopping nine batsmen in the number three position in Tests, in an effort to find someone who can remotely stack up to Ricky Ponting's dominance there since 1996.

Usman Khawaja is the latest person to go in at first drop, but he made just 25 runs in Manchester and 21 at Chester-le-Street, so the battle for a Punter replacement continues, with an eye to the return leg of the Ashes in November.

Here are the nine men in question, with Shaun Marsh the last person to score a century at three, all the way back in 2011, and Phil Hughes holding the best (if not that great) average in the slot.

Keep in mind that the stats relating to number three (runs, average, HS) are for the past three years only. If their 'best position' is three, then it's for their whole career.

<b>Usman Khawaja</b><br><b>Tests:</b> 9<br><b>Tests at number three since 2010:</b> 7<br><b>Runs:</b> 377<br><b>Runs at number three:</b> 317<br><b>Overall average:</b> 25.13<br><b>Average number three:</b> 24.38<br><b>HS:</b> 65<br><b>HS at number three:</b> 65<br><b>Best position:</b> 3 (ave: 24.38)<br><b>Domestic record in 2012/13:</b> 438 runs at 39.81

The Pakistan-born player has only batted further down the order three times, top scoring with 26 and making just 60 runs in total. He's well down the list on the Sheffield Shield records for the past season, with fast bowler James Faulkner outscoring him. He did make a fifty at Lord's though…

<b>Phil Hughes</b><br><b>Tests:</b> 26<br><b>Tests at number three since 2010:</b> 7<br><b>Runs:</b> 1535<br><b>Runs at number three:</b> 372<br><b>Overall average:</b> 32.65<br><b>Average number three:</b> 37.20<br><b>HS:</b> 160<br><b>HS at number three:</b> 87<br><b>Best position:</b> 1 (ave: 50.41 in 13 inns)<br><b>Domestic record in 2012/13:</b> 673 runs at 56.08

Hughes has actually been in pretty good form on the tour to the UK, scoring a gritty half century in the first Test alongside Ashton Agar, and also making fifties in the tour games before and after. He made two runs in the second Test and has been on the sidelines ever since. Many pundits are calling for him to replace Khawaja.

<b>Ed Cowan</b><br><b>Tests:</b> 18<br><b>Tests at number three since 2010:</b> 2<br><b>Runs:</b> 1001<br><b>Runs at number three:</b> 38<br><b>Overall average:</b> 31.28<br><b>Average number three:</b> 12.66<br><b>HS:</b> 136<br><b>HS at number three:</b> 24<br><b>Best position:</b> 1 (ave: 46.00)<br><b>Domestic record in 2012/13:</b> 776 runs at 43.11

Cowan is clearly meant to open the batting, and was one of Nottinghamshire's best batsmen this past season. The first Ashes Test saw him play while suffering from a stomach bug, and he was dropped after making a duck and 14 at number three. He went on to make two half tons in the tour match against Sussex, but was not recalled.

<b>Shane Watson</b><br><b>Tests:</b> 45<br><b>Tests at number three since 2010:</b> 4<br><b>Runs:</b> 2796<br><b>Runs at number three:</b> 228<br><b>Overall average:</b> 34.51<br><b>Average number three:</b> 28.50<br><b>HS:</b> 126<br><b>HS at number three:</b> 56<br><b>Best position:</b> 1 (ave: 41.79)<br><b>Domestic record in 2012/13:</b> 33 runs at 33 (one game for NSW)

Watson opened the batting for the first three Ashes Tests, alongside Chris Rogers, and while he didn't do wonderfully, Rogers made him look slightly decent as they put on some solid opening stands. He has since been shifted down the order, with David Warner returning to open. It's unlikely he'll move to three, and for good reason.

<b>Michael Clarke</b><br><b>Tests:</b> 96<br><b>Tests at number three since 2010:</b> 1<br><b>Runs:</b> 7621<br><b>Runs at number three:</b> 0<br><b>Overall average:</b> 52.19<br><b>Average number three:</b> 0<br><b>HS:</b> 329 not out<br><b>HS at number three:</b> 0<br><b>Best position:</b> 5 (ave: 63.74)<br><b>Domestic record in 2012/13:</b> 173 runs in three games, at 34.60

The Australia skipper is not comfortable above number four, and thrives once the ball is a bit older and he's required to invariably rescue a top order collapse. His stint at number three, in Mohali this year, saw him stumped for a duck.

<b>David Warner</b><br><b>Tests:</b> 21<br><b>Tests at number three since 2010:</b> 1<br><b>Runs:</b> 1383<br><b>Runs at number three:</b> 23<br><b>Overall average:</b> 38.41<br><b>Average number three:</b> 23<br><b>HS:</b> 180<br><b>HS at number three:</b> 23<br><b>Best position:</b> 2 (ave: 49.68)<br><b>Domestic record in 2012/13:</b> 41 runs in one game

Warner has had a chaotic build-up and Ashes, but remains one of Australia's most explosive players when he comes right. He made a huge century for Australia A a few weeks ago (at number four), and then scored 71 while opening the batting with Rogers in Durham, but he's not number three material.

<b>Rob Quiney</b><br><b>Tests:</b> 2<br><b>Tests at number three since 2010:</b> 2<br><b>Runs:</b> 9<br><b>Runs at number three:</b> 9<br><b>Overall average:</b> 3<br><b>Average number three:</b> 3<br><b>HS:</b> 9<br><b>HS at number three:</b> 9<br><b>Best position:</b> 3 (ave: 3)<br><b>Domestic record in 2012/13:</b> 295 runs at 26.81

Yeah… Quiney's Test record makes for rather nauseating reading. He made his debut, and played his last Test, against South Africa at the end of last year, and has not been seen on the international stage since. He's been playing for Essex in recent months, and doing pretty well with a few fifties.

<b>Shaun Marsh</b><br><b>Tests:</b> 7<br><b>Tests at number three since 2010:</b> 7<br><b>Runs:</b> 301<br><b>Runs at number three:</b> 301<br><b>Overall average:</b> 27.36<br><b>Average number three:</b> 30.10<br><b>HS:</b> 141<br><b>HS at number three:</b> 141<br><b>Best position:</b> 3 (ave: 30.10)<br><b>Domestic record in 2012/13:</b> 152 runs at 19.00

Marsh was the last person to score a ton for Australia at three, and the Aussies are the only Test nation without a century in that position since then. His current form is patchy, but is with Australia A and scored a century and 96 this month against SA A.

<b>Ricky Ponting</b><br><b>Tests:</b> 168<br><b>Tests at number three since 2010:</b> 8<br><b>Runs:</b> 13378<br><b>Runs at number three:</b> 385<br><b>Overall average:</b> 51.85<br><b>Average number three:</b> 27.50<br><b>HS:</b> 257<br><b>HS at number three:</b> 77<br><b>Best position:</b> 3 (ave: 56.27)<br><b>Domestic record in 2012/13:</b> 911 at 75.91 in the Sheffield Shield

Obviously Ponting's inclusion here is just for fun as he's retired, but the selectors probably wish he wasn't off the market. He was the top Sheffield Shield run-scorer this past season, leading Tasmania to the title, and ended his first class career with an unbeaten century for Surrey.

<b>Other options:</b>

<b>Alex Doolan</b><br>The Tasmania number three was in good form during the Sheffield Shield, making 715 runs in 10 matches and finishing