The National Selection Panel (NSP) has named a 15-player Australian squad for the first two matches of the Ashes Series against England that will begin on the 8th of December at the Gabba.
The squad contains many of the regular names that Australian fans would expect to see with Tim Paine remaining captain for the campaign and Pat Cummins as his understudy.
The squad also features a couple of former regular selections returning in Usman Khawaja and Travis Head after both showing strong displays early in the Sheffield Shield season.
Australian selector, George Bailey, spoke on the pair competing for the number five position in the Australian batting order.
“We’re starting to get pretty close to where we want to land on that. They’ve both (Travis Head and Usman Khawaja) started the year really well, we know both can perform at test level,” Bailey said.
Bailey mentioned that whilst one of the two, which he wouldn’t name, is more likely to play at this stage, the decision is not yet final.Embed from Getty Images
Another former member of the squad, Jhye Richardson, has also returned after recovering from injury and regaining some strong first-class form.
“We’re getting pretty excited by Jhye, I think he looks as strong as I’ve ever seen him, and I just like the fact he’s had a couple of niggles and worked his way back from those, so he’s starting to build some resilience into his body,” Bailey commented.
“That Gabba game (especially), one particular spell, I think it was the morning of day two, early on, he ended up getting the wickets of Marnus (Labuschagne) and Joe Burns, we commented that it was impressive quality.”Embed from Getty Images
Marcus Harris is set to be locked in as David Warner’s opening partner for the entirety of the summer after impressing selectors not only in Australia but also in England having spent the winter playing for Leicestershire County Cricket Club.
“I really like Marcus, he’s doing everything that we’re asking of him in terms of scoring amount of domestic runs, he’s gone away, had a good strong winter playing for Leicester as well, so he just continues to do all the right things domestically,
“We’d love nothing more than to back him in and give him an extended run at the top of the order, we know how important opening partnerships are, trying to forge a really strong relationship with David (Warner) at the top is really important for our test team.”
“If you look through that squad, he’s the opener in there, alongside David Warner,” Bailey admitted.
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Young talent, Will Pucovski, will have to wait a while longer to play his second match in test cricket as he continues to recover from concussion suffered during a training session for the Victorian first-class squad.
“It’s probably unlikely (that he’ll play for Australia this summer), he hasn’t played any cricket up until this point, it’s a really stepped process for him but for him it’s about getting symptom free and feeling good physically and (then) putting together a batch of games, if you look over his last couple of years it’s been really hard for him to get that body of work together,” Bailey said.
It was also announced that an Australia A side will play a tour match against the English Lions. All selected players, for both squads, will play in an internal match at Redlands Cricket Club from December 1-3 as part of preparations for the Ashes.
Australian Ashes squad: Tim Paine (c), Pat Cummins (vc), Cameron Green, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Michael Neser, Jhye Richardson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson, David Warner
Additional Australia A players: Sean Abbott, Ashton Agar, Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Henry Hunt, Josh Inglis, Nic Maddinson, Mitchell Marsh, Matt Renshaw, Mark Steketee, Bryce Street
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