Ashes 2019: Australia’s predicted Test squad
Cameron Bancroft, Marnus Labuschagne, Matthew Wade and James Pattinson.

Australia‘s squad for the 2019 Ashes will be named on Saturday morning, five days before the start of the first Test against England at Edgbaston.

The four-day intra-squad warmup match – which ended inside three days – was designed to help the team management and selectors identify the 16 Australian cricketers to contest the Ashes, and on the basis of that the performers are few.

Only two batsmen – Cameron Bancroft and David Warner – got to the 50-mark, fast bowlers Pat Cummins and Mitchell Marsh each took six wickets and veteran seamer Peter Siddle five, while in the battle for the allrounder’s slot it was Marsh (the only batsman to pass 20 in both innings) and Marnus Labuschagne (who made 41 in the Haddin XII’s first innings of 105) who made the right noises.

Here’s a look at what Australia’s Ashes squad could look like:

THE OPENERS

Warner’s comeback from a year-long ball-tampering ban is certain after a successful World Cup run followed by 58 in Southampton. The other two openers will, in all be probability, be Marcus Harris and Bancroft.

Cameron Bancroft Ashes
Cameron Bancroft raises his bat after reaching 50. (Image: Twitter)

Harris has made a middling start to his Test career but has the management’s faith. He failed in the warmup match (6 and 15) but has runs for Australia A on tour of England (109, 12*, 34 and 50). Bancroft, back in the fold after serving a nine-month ban for his role in the Cape Town ball-tampering scandal of 2018, has runs for Western Australia in the Sheffield Shield, for Durham in county cricket (726 at 45.37) and now 93 not out in the intra-squad game.

Joe Burns, who opened during the Sri Lanka Test series, is the unlucky opener from the pre-Ashes mix.

Likely picks: Warner, Harris and Bancroft.

NUMBERS 3-6

At No 3, though he missed the intra-squad with injury, Usman Khawaja is almost certain to get the nod with Paine having no doubts about his fitness.

Steven Smith will be recalled after making a successful comeback to international cricket after his 12-month ban, and will likely slot back in at No 4 despite scoring 9 and 8 in Southampton.

This means that Travis Head, (1 and 0), Matthew Wade (10 and 7), Kurtis Patterson (2 and 0), Peter Handscomb (2 and 13) and Will Pucovski (4 and 37) are vying for two spots.

Travis Head opened up after raising his maiden Test hundred.
Travis Head scored his maiden Test hundred this year and averages 51 from eight games. © AFP

One certain pick is Head, who averages 51 from eight Tests and scored a century in Australia’s previous Test in February. Patterson collected his maiden Test hundred in that match versus Sri Lanka, but with Smith returning and the selectors likely to pick a second wicketkeeper capable of doubling up as a specialist batsman, he looks likely to be pushed out. The same for Handscomb, who was part of Australia’s Test squad during the home summer, and the uncapped Pucovski.

The man primed to be picked purely as a batsman, despite having kept wickets in each of his 22 Tests, is Wade on the basis of having he scored three centuries on tour with Australia A and is coming off a Sheffield Shield season in which he crossed 1000 runs.

Likely picks: Smith, Head and Wade.

THE ALLROUNDER

With scores of 29 off 33 balls and 23 from 39, to go with 5/34 in the Haddin XII’s second innings, Marsh has done little wrong to earn a Test recall. Dropped in December during the home series with India, Marsh bowled well in Southampton but the question is – will the Australian selectors value his style of brisk medium pace given that there will be five fast bowlers, or opt for Labuschagne who offers a second spin-bowling option and is a terrific close-in fielder?

Australia have dropped Peter Handscomb and recalled allrounder Mitchell Marsh for the third Test against India starting in Melbourne on Wednesday.
Despite doing well in Southampton, Mitchell Marsh could miss out. © AFP

Labuschagne, capped five times in Tests, is the top run-getter in Division Two of the ongoing County Championship for Glamorgan (1114 at 65.52, with five centuries and five fifties) and his solid 41 on day one on a tricky Ageas Bowl surface may have tipped the scales in his favour.

Likely pick: Labuschagne

THE WICKETKEEPERS

Paine is, of course, the number one pick for Australia because he’s captain and designated wicketkeeper. Two men are vying for a place as Paine’s understudy: Wade and the uncapped Alex Carey.

Carey, Australia’s ODI and T20I vice-captain, scored 375 runs at an average of 62.50 and strike-rate of 104.16 during the recent World Cup, and has been tipped by Steve Waugh and Shane Warne to get a place in the Test squad. The left-hander scored 6 and 26 in Southampton, and his smooth wicketkeeping during the World Cup and the Southampton match leave him as a strong candidate to be Paine’s backup.

But if the selectors name Wade in the middle order, then that takes care of the second wicketkeeper’s position. Will Carey still get the nod with Wade named ahead of him? Given his World Cup success, it could well be that Carey is the man to shadow Paine.

Likely picks: Paine, Carey

THE FAST BOWLERS

Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood are certainties for the Ashes, and the rehabilitated James Pattinson is expected to be recalled after taking 4/23 in 23 overs in Southampton and bowling fast during Australia A’s tour of England. This leaves four fast bowlers chasing one spot in Australia’s Ashes squad: Siddle, Michael Neser, Jackson Bird and Chris Tremain.

James Pattinson took 7/71 to bowl Victoria to the Sheffield Shield title.
James Pattinson took 7/71 to bowl Victoria to the Sheffield Shield title. (Image: @VicStateCricket)

In the intra-squad match, Siddle took 5/45 in one innings; Neser claimed 4/42 on the opening day; Bird and Tremain took three wickets each.

Siddle’s experience of playing in England for Essex could see him pip the other three to the fifth pacer’s spot.

Likely picks: Starc, Cummins, Hazlewood, Pattinson and Siddle

THE SPINNER(S)

Who will back up Nathan Lyon, Australia’s most successful finger-spinner and fourth-highest wicket-taker in Tests? Is a second spinner even needed in England? If the selectors pick the left-armer Jon Holland, it would mean leaving out a second wicketkeeper-batsman.

All signs are that Lyon will be the specialist spinner.

Likely pick: Lyon

Will this be Australia’s Ashes squad?

Tim Paine (capt/wk), David Warner, Cameron Bancroft, Marcus Harris, Usman Khawaja, Steven Smith, Travis Head, Marnus Labuschagne, Matthew Wade, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, Nathan Lyon