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Australia's Ashes Squad: Top Heavy, Inexperienced Middle, Gun Pacers

Nikhil Narain |July 28, 2019, 10:01 AM IST
Australia's Ashes Squad: Top Heavy, Inexperienced Middle, Gun Pacers

It took a three-day tour match between a Brad Haddin XII and Graeme Hick XII to ultimately select the final 17 of the Australian Ashes squad from the pool of 24 players who participated in the intra-squad match.

There were some surprising omissions, none more so than Joe Burns and Kurtis Patterson, both of whom had registered hundreds in the last Test Australia played against Sri Lanka in Canberra in February.

The trio of David Warner, Steven Smith and Cameron Bancroft are back and will represent them in whites for the first time since the infamous sandpaper ball-tampering scandal in Cape Town in March 2018.

Overall, keeping in mind the conditions in England and after giving due weightage to the form of the players, it is a strong and balanced squad named by the selectors with as many as 6 fast bowlers in the final 17.

Australia’s Ashes Squad:

warner-smith_2412getty_875

Openers:

David Warner, Cameron Bancroft and Marcus Harris

Middle Order:

Usman Khawaja, Steven Smith, Travis Head, Marnus Labuschagne (All-Rounder), Mitchell Marsh (All-Rounder), Tim Paine (Captain; WK), Matthew Wade (WK)

Fast Bowlers:

Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc, Michael Neser

Specialist Spinner:

Nathan Lyon

A Potent Pace Attack

(Image credits: AFP) (Image credits: AFP)

Pat Cummins has picked 94 wickets from just 20 Tests in his relatively short career and is widely considered as one of the better fast bowlers in the world. His bowling average of 22.02 is the tenth-best amongst all fast bowlers who made their debut post World War II and have a minimum of 80 career wickets. His strike rate of 46.8 is the tenth-best on an all-time list for fast bowlers (min. 80 wickets). He has already picked seven 4-wicket hauls, four 5-wicket hauls and one ten-for in a match. He has returned 58 wickets in just 11 Tests since 2018 at an outstanding average of 18.77.

Josh Hazlewood has picked 164 wickets in 82 Tests at an average of 27.14 but has seen a dip in his form since 2018 with only 28 wickets from 9 Tests at 34.64 apiece. However, with his accurate line and length and ability to extract movement off the seam, he should be more than a handful in favourable English conditions. He was Australia’s most consistent bowler with 16 wickets from 4 Tests in their last Ashes series in England in 2015.

Peter Siddle is the most experienced fast bowler in the squad with 214 wickets from 64 Tests at an average of 30.28. Siddle has been in excellent form in the Sheffield Shield since 2018 having picked 26 wickets in just 7 matches at 24.53 apiece. He has also bagged 34 wickets at an average of just 20.8 in the 2019 English County season. Siddle has played three Ashes series in England – he had accounted for 20 wickets in 2009 and 17 in 2013.

Mitchell Starc is the only left-arm pacer in the Australian squad and is a veteran of 211 wickets from 51 Tests. Starc was in red-hot form during the 2019 World Cup and finished as the highest wicket-taker of the tournament. He stands out for his wicket-taking prowess and as in ODI cricket, it is his strike rate in Test cricket – best in Australia’s Test history and the tenth-best overall amongst fast bowlers (min. 150 wickets) – which makes him a genuine match-winner with the ball.

James Pattinson is the most exciting of the Australian pacemen. With raw pace, accuracy and ability to trouble the opposition batsmen both through the air and off the pitch, he will certainly be a handful. He has picked 70 wickets in 17 Tests at 26.15 at a strike rate of 46.8 and has been in devastating form in the Sheffield Shield since 2018 with 26 wickets in 7 matches at 18.92. He has also picked 15 wickets at 20.8 in the English County Season this year. Pattinson has taken 3-plus in an innings on as many as 6 occasions in his last 10 first-class innings.

Michael Neser is yet to make his debut but with 33 wickets in 9 Sheffield Shield matches since 2018 at just 23.03 apiece, there is a good chance he will get a look in at some stage during this Ashes.

The Experience of Lyon

Nathan Lyon has bagged 343 wickets in 86 Tests for Australia and is their second-highest wicket-taker (amongst spinners) after Shane Warne. He has picked 57 wickets in 13 Tests since 2018. His record in England is also impressive with 25 wickets from 8 Tests. Lyon has picked 20 wickets from just 3 Sheffield Shield matches in 2018-19.

Two World-Class Batsmen

Australia's David Warner (image: AFP) Australia's David Warner (image: AFP)

David Warner has amassed 6363 runs in 74 Tests at an average of 48.2 including 21 hundreds. Australia have only lost thrice when Warner has reach triple figures in a match. Along with his runs, it is the manner and the rate at which he scores them which hurts opposition bowlers. Warner has a strike rate of 74.5 in Test cricket. He was in excellent form in 2017 scoring 997 runs from just 11 Tests at 49.85. Warner has been in sizzling form in limited-overs’ cricket – he was the highest scorer in the IPL and the second-highest in the World Cup.

Steven Smith has the second-highest average (min. 2000 runs) in Test cricket history (61.37) after the great Sir Don Bradman. He has aggregated 6199 runs in 64 Tests registering 23 hundreds. He has an excellent record in England with 853 runs in 10 Tests at an average of 47.38 including 3 hundreds.

In-Form Batsmen in First-Class Cricket

(Cricket Australia) (Cricket Australia)

Cameron Bancroft has played just 8 Tests and averages only 30.92 for Australia but has scored 392 runs in 4 domestic matches in Australia this season while also amassing 726 runs in 9 matches at an average of 45.37 in the English County season. He impressed with a dogged unbeaten 93 in the second innings in the intra-squad match at Southampton.

Marnus Labuschagne has been in scintillating form for Glamorgan in the English county season this year scoring 1114 runs at 65.52 including 5 hundreds.

Matthew Wade has fought his way back into the Ashes squad with some incredible performances for Tasmania in Sheffield Shield and Australia A in List A cricket. Overall, he has scored 1021 runs in 10 matches in Australia at an average of 60.05 including two hundreds. He also registered a hundred against England Lions at Canterbury earlier in July. Wade does not have such impressive numbers for Australia though, with 886 Test runs from 22 Tests at an average of 28.58.

Marcus Harris has aggregated 1188 runs in the Australian domestic circuit since 2018 at an average of 69.88 including three hundreds.

All-Rounder

Mitchell Marsh hasn’t had a great Test career with a batting average of 25.39 and bowling average of 43.91 from 31 Tests. But he was in good form with the ball picking 5 wickets in the second innings and also scoring some tough runs under pressure in the intra-squad match at Southampton. Marsh, though has a decent first-class record – he has registered 11 hundreds and scored close to 5000 runs as well as picked 146 wickets at just a shade under 32 per wicket.

Others

Tim Paine

Travis Head has scored 663 runs in 8 Tests at an average of 51. He has been in good form of late and registered a hundred against England Lions at Canterbury.

Tim Paine has scored 984 runs in 35 Tests at 35.14 in addition to wicket-keeping and captaining Australia in one of the toughest times in their Test history.

Usman Khawaja has scored 2765 runs in 41 Tests at an average of 42.53 including 8 hundreds.

While Australia have pace, variety and pedigree in their fast bowling department and a top-heavy batting unit with Warner, Smith and Khawaja in the top-4, their middle and lower middle-order looks a bit weak and inexperienced – they have played, on an average, 17 Tests each for Australia.

Australia are the current holders of the Ashes – they hammered England 4-0 at home in 2017 – but haven’t won a series in England since 2001.

Having suffered a crushing defeat in the World Cup semi-finals against their arch-rivals, they don’t need any extra motivation in their quest to retain the Ashes urn.

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