Test team takes shape
The opening day of the 2017/18 Ashes Series is only seven sleeps away and the nation’s attention has turned to who will be picked for the opening test in Brisbane.
With Round 3 of the Sheffield Shield in progress, Ashes hopefuls have one last chance to prove themselves if they wish to be considered for selection in the starting eleven.
The Ashes urn is currently held by England after the Poms won the last series between the two nations 3-2 in 2015.
England have only won one Ashes series held in Australia since 1990, giving the host nation great confidence to extend this run of form down under.
With Aussie stalwarts Smith, Warner, Starc and Lyon likely to lead the side, a small number of positions remain up for grabs.
Here’s how your Australian XI is taking shape ahead of the first Ashes test.
*Statistics listed beside each player account for the first three rounds of the Sheffield Shield.
David Warner – 83, 32, 5, 5, 26
Usman Khawaja – 40, 22, 27, 28*, 78*
Steve Smith – 3, 9, 67, 127, 44
Peter Handscomb – 9, 34, 43, 58, 0
Under Pressure Incumbents
Matthew Renshaw – 17, 16, 1, 19, 16
Glenn Maxwell – 7, 20, 60, 64, 4 and 0/13, 0/2, 0/16
Jake Lehmann – 10, 6, 103, 93 and 1/18
The son of current Australian coach Darren Lehmann has shot through Aussie cricket ranks in the last month with powerful batting displays. If selected it would be assumed Lehmann would bat at six, with a license to follow his natural game and go on the offensive against the English attack.
Hilton Cartwright – 61, 38, 0, 0, 35 and 1/20
Zimbabwe born Cartwright made his Test debut for Australia in 2017 against Pakistan and also featured in the recent drawn series between Australia and Bangladesh. Test cricket legend Ricky Ponting has thrown his support behind Cartwright to hold the number 6 position, telling cricket.com.au, “I think it’s going to be hard for them (the selectors) not to pick him.”
Daniel Hughes – 57, 7*, 25, 1, 98*
Tipped by Australian Captain Steve Smith to be an Ashes bolter, Hughes has capitalised on the recent attention by posting an attractive 98 not out in a recent Sheffield Shield innings. If selected, Hughes could either open with Warner, or bat at six, a credit to the versatility of his form and technique.
Under Pressure Incumbent
Matthew Wade – 1, 6, 9, 17, 5 and five catches
Peter Nevill – 20, 32, 11*, 17 and seven catches
Nevill made his Test debut in 2015, and has since played 17 matches with a batting average of 22.29. The NSW keeper lost his international spot to Wade last summer but will be hoping to regain selection on the back of some strong performances for NSW.
Cameron Bancroft – 18, 17, 76*, 86 and three catches
This would be one of the more interesting Ashes selections, with Bancroft only recently donning the gloves due to injury to regular WA keeper Sam Whiteman. Despite a lack of experience, Bancroft has impressed with strong batting performances, and respectable work behind the stumps. It would be a shock, but Bancroft is an Ashes smoky.
Mitchell Starc – 2/46, 8/73, 4/56, 3/41
Pat Cummins – 2/22, 0/71, 2/31, 2/52
Josh Hazlewood – 3/24, 3/49
Nathan Lyon – 2/26, 1/39, 2/56, 3/59
Jackson Bird – 4/61, 2/85, 3/40, 1/42
With Australia’s current fast bowling depth, it is unlikely Bird will be selected this summer unless there is an injury. Despite this, his form in recent Sheffield Shield games has been strong, suggesting he would be more than capable of furthering his test match career if called upon.