Openers: Phillip Hughes, David Warner and Aaron Finch
Wicket keepers: Matthew Wade and Brad Haddin
Bowlers: James Faulkner, Mitchell Johnson, Ryan Harris and Ben Cutting
Australia will look to make a strong comeback in Test cricket after losing seven matches in total in India and England. Their last win came against Sri Lanka, in Sydney, and after that they haven’t won a single match. The kangaroos have never faced this sort of humiliation before.
After the retirement of Matthew Hayden, the Aussies have just won Test series against lowly teams like West Indies, India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. The Indian team, considering their inexperience on bouncy pitches, are considered as a lowly team here. They haven’t won against teams like New Zealand, South Africa and England. This is really a great cause of concern.
The last time England played in Australia, they created history by retaining the Ashes with a 3-1 series victory. Australia had veteran players in the form of Michael Hussey and Ricky Ponting, but the batting line up, for the majority of the series, never succeeded against the English bowlers James Anderson, Tim Bresnan and Chris Tremlett. Ponting’s side went past the 400 run mark just once in the 5 Test matches.
On the other hand, the Aussie bowlers failed to contain the English batsmen as they allowed the visitors to pile up huge scores. They crossed the 500 run mark 4 times in 5 Test matches, with the top 5 batsmen consistently scoring big.
The Australian team’s opening partnership has been a real cause of concern, especially after the retirement of greats like Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer. The selectors have tried a lot of combinations for the opening line up with Chris Rogers, David Warner and Shane Watson. For the upcoming Ashes series, the Australian think-tank could use Phillip Hughes and David Warner as the opening pair. The two young left-handers can have great impact on the game. Hughes can carry his batting form forward in this series. But facing Anderson will be a great test for him and it will be interesting to see the contest between the two. Aaron Finch did quite well in England but he has not yet been tested in the 5 day format. He can be an aggressive batsman, much like Hayden, and can give momentum to the Australian team.
Apart from Michael Clarke and Shane Watson, the team lacks experience in the middle order, particularly after the retirement of Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey. If we take the performance of George Bailey into consideration, he can form a good batsman at No. 5 for the team. He has been in prime form since his ODI debut. With Clarke and Watson at the other end, George Bailey can learn a lot and can carry his ODI form (batting average of around 55 in 33 innings) forward in the upcoming Ashes series.
Bailey recently scored 34 and 41 for Tasmania and, most probably, will be called up for the Gabba Test by the Australian selectors, considering his consistent performances in England and India.
Glenn Maxwell can very much take the place of Adam Gilchrist, considering his aggressive nature of batting. He showed his hard-hitting abilities in the recently concluded ODI series in India. Maxwell should be in the squad, mainly because of his attacking batting; he can turn the game away from his opponents at any time. If the Aussies are going for an offensive game plan, I see no reason why he should not be selected.
James Faulkner, in the 5th Ashes Test in England which was his debut test, took 6 wickets and also scored a handy 45 runs. He went to India for the ODI series as an emerging fast bowler but came back to Australia as a developed all-rounder. His strokes didn’t look like that of a tail-ender’s but like that of a regular batsman. He is also dangerous with the ball and along with the in-form and experienced Mitchell Johnson, he can form a potent fast bowling attack.
Ryan Harris made a strong comeback during the Ashes series in England earlier this year. He took 7 wickets in the Lord’s Test match and troubled the English batsman throughout the innings. In the 4th Test he took 7 wickets in the second innings and stood out as a lone fighter in the bowling department for the Aussies.
If there is any problem regarding fitness with the bowlers, then the selectors can also go for the Queensland player Ben Cutting, who has recently come to the fore after an impressive spell for Australia A at Hobart. His speed and accuracy were clearly visible in that Test, where he also picked up the significant wicket of Jonathan Trott. Even England team’s coach, Andy Flower, had words of praise for this young Australian speed star. “He bowled an excellent length; conditions were a little subcontinent-like, with the bounce of the ball. He bowled a perfect length for that pitch and he was good on the first day as well, I thought, without much luck. But he was excellent today. It was good for us to face that sort of quality bowling.”
This is a very important series for Australia if they want to build a legacy once again in international cricket. If they win this Ashes series, they will get a lot of confidence for their upcoming matches.