Ashes 2019: Australia’s first Test XI could be decided based on four-day intra-squad match, says Tim Paine
Australia's 25-strong squad has been divided into two teams. (Image: Twitter/@cricketcomau)

As Australia chase a first Ashes win in England in 18 years, their Test skipper Tim Paine has laid down the marker for the four-day intra-squad match in Southampton this week: this fixture could decide the touring team’s lineup for the series opener against England on August 1.

The teams for this match between Australia’s Test regulars and hopefuls were released over the weekend, with Paine to lead the Hick XII and Travis Head in charge of the Haddin XII. Rubbishing any notion of this match being a low-key, going-through-the-motions affair, Paine underlined that spots remain up for grabs and that success between Tuesday and Friday could determined selection for the Edgbaston Test next month.

“It will be a proper game,” Paine told reporters on Sunday in Southampton. “Both sides will be looking to win and both sides will have individual players wanting to do really well to press their final case for Ashes selection. We certainly don’t expect it to peter out in the second innings or play around with a run chase or anything like that.

“At the moment it’s a fair dinkum game of cricket and that’s been made really clear. We’re looking at it as a real opportunity to test each other’s skills so when we get to the first Test we know exactly where we’re at and everyone’s had a perfect preparation, and everyone’s been put on pressure.”

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One of the main challenges for Paine and his squad is overcoming the conditions in England, where not since 2001 has any Australian cricket team won the Ashes.

Paine expects the four-day intra-squad match in Southampton to be an extension of the opportunity members of Australia’s World Cup squad and Australia A have had by being based in the country for much of the summer.

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“You’ve got to be able to adapt to the conditions that are put in front of you,” he said. “In the last 18 years we haven’t done that so well over here. It’s something we’ve certainly looked at, we’re looking at even with our selection.

“We’re looking at what’s going to be the best mix of players to win Test cricket in England. It’s going to be a fascinating week or so and there’s some real opportunities for guys in this week. Certainly, something we’ve looked at is the style of play, style of players and a number of different things that we think can help us win in these conditions.”

Hick XII: Joe Burns, Cameron Bancroft, Steve Smith, Peter Handscomb, Matthew Wade, Mitchell Marsh, Tim Paine (capt/wk), Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Jackson Bird, Chris Tremain, Nathan Lyon

Haddin XII: David Warner, Marcus Harris, Kurtis Patterson, Travis Head (capt), Marnus Labuschagne, Will Pucovski, Alex Carey (wk), Pat Cummins, Mitch Starc, Peter Siddle, Josh Hazlewood, Jon Holland