Ashes 2019: Probable squad for Australia
The first Test match of the Ashes series is scheduled to start on August 1, but both Australia and England are unsure of their squads for the series. This is in part due to the recently concluded World Cup taking precedence, but both teams have now switched their focus to red-ball cricket. Australia is planning to decide its squad for the series in a unique fashion: an intra-squad face-off between teams managed by the assistant coaches.
The players in both the Austalian groups are a mix of players from Australia A's tour of England that ran concurrently with the World Cup, all-format players from the World Cup squad, and players who were a part of the County Championship. Fielding coach Brad Haddin will coach one team while batting coach Graeme Hick will be in charge of the other.
Haddin XII: Travis Head (c), David Warner, Marcus Harris, Kurtis Patterson, Marnus Labuschagne, Will Pucovski, Alex Carey (wk), Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Peter Siddle, Josh Hazlewood, and Jon Holland.
Hick XII: Tim Paine (c/wk), Joe Burns, Cameron Bancroft, Steve Smith, Peter Handscomb, Matthew Wade, Mitchell Marsh, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Jackson Bird, Chris Tremain, and Nathan Lyon.
Usman Khawaja was not picked in either team due to a hamstring injury but is likely to be fit in time for the series. Shaun Marsh was also not considered due to a fractured forearm.
The immediate focus will be on former captain and vice-captain Steve Smith and David Warner respectively as they continue their reintegration into international cricket following their one-year ban for ball-tampering at Newlands last year. While Warner had an excellent World Cup with 647 runs, Smith had an average one by his astronomical standards, with only 379 runs, but managing 4 half-centuries in testing conditions and situations.
How the returning duo and Cameron Bancroft handle their return to Test cricket following their suspension will be of interest. While Smith and Warner are assured selections, Bancroft is currently competing with the likes of Marcus Harris and Joe Burns to decide who will open the innings alongside Warner.
Burns successfully returned to the team with a century against Sri Lanka earlier this year and Harris impressed just enough over the last Australian summer to remain in contention.
Travis Head, Kurtis Patterson, Matthew Wade, Marnus Labuschagne, Peter Handscomb, Will Puckovski, Alex Carey and Mitchell Marsh are contesting middle order positions, with Head and Patterson the incumbents following good performances in Test cricket over the last summer.
Wade is in reckoning as a specialist batsman following an exceptional season for Tasmania and centuries for Australia A in their recent fixtures against English county sides. Carey is a candidate following excellent performances during the World Cup and is shaping to be the likely successor to Tim Paine as the next wicket-keeper.
Labuschagne and Marsh's bowling capabilities also give them an edge for selection in the final squad. It will take something special from Marsh to ensure his selection as he had lost his place in Australia's representative teams following a poor summer and will be hoping for a good performance in the face-off. Labuschagne has had an excellent summer with Glamorgan so far, becoming the first batsman to reach the 1,000-run mark in the County Championship.
Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, and James Pattinson are guaranteed selections to form the bowling attack, leaving the likes of Peter Siddle, Jackson Bird, Michael Neser, Chris Tremain and Jon Holland to contest over the two positions as backup bowling options.
Both Siddle and Bird have experience in English conditions having played County cricket and Test matches in England. Siddle would appear to be the favored candidate due to his significant role in previous Ashes campaigns in England, but it will come down to how he bowls in the upcoming match.
Jon Holland is the only other specialist spin bowler selected after Nathan Lyon, but it is unlikely that he will play in the series unless conditions absolutely suggest otherwise.
The intra-squad match between the two teams is therefore crucial, both to determine who will be part of the team that contests the Ashes and to give their players match practice. Australia will hope for excellent performances from all concerned in their effort to win an Ashes series in England for the first time since 2001, when current head coach Justin Langer was still playing for Australia.
Probable Australian squad for the Ashes: Tim Paine (c/wk), Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, Steve Smith, David Warner, James Pattinson, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja*, Peter Siddle, Joe Burns, Matthew Wade, Kurtis Patterson, Mitchell Marsh, and Marcus Harris.
(Marnus Labuschagne to replace Khawaja in case of failed recovery.)
Also see – Ashes Teams & Squads