Despite pleas from Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting to pick and stick with Australia’s brittle Ashes batting order, overnight the selectors knifed top order batsman Usman Khawaja, and promoted James Faulkner to bat at seven on debut.
Faulkner’ recognition means 17 of the big 18-man Australian squad have worn a baggy green this tour, Matthew Wade is the only one to miss out.
Let’s start from the beginning.
A 16-man Ashes squad was named in April, with Mitchell Johnson, Steve Smith, Moises Henriques, Xavier Doherty, and Glenn Maxwell left out after the ill-fated tour of India,
Chris Rogers, back after five years in the wilderness, and talented Tasmanian all-rounder Faulkner, were named.
In June, Smith was added to the squad to cover for Michael Clark’s back, and Ashton Agar to cover for offie Nathan Lyon.
Then the musical chairs started,
First Test at Trent Bridge – Watson, Rogers, Cowan, Clarke, Smith, Hughes, Haddin, Siddle, Starc, Pattinson, and Agar.
From the fourth Test in India, Watson from 4 to 1, Hughes from 3 to 6, Clarke in at 4 after injury, Haddin in for Wade at 7, Starc in for Johnson at 9, and Agar for Lyon at 11.
Second Test at Lords – Watson, Rogers, Khawaja, Hughes, Clarke, Smith, Haddin, Agar, Siddle, Pattinson, Harris.
Cowan and Starc dropped replaced by Khawaja and Harris, Khawaja to 3, Hughes from 3 to 4, Clarke from 4 to 5, Smith from 5 to 6, Agar from 11 to 8,
Third Test at Old Trafford – Watson, Rogers, Khawaja, Clarke, Smith, Warner, Gaddin, Siddle, Starc, Harris, Lyon.
Pattinson injured replaced by Starc, Hughes dropped for Warner, and Agar dropped for Lyon – Clarke from 5 to 4, Smith from 6 to 5, Warner at 6.
Fourth Test at Chester-le-Street – Warner, Rogers, Khawaja, Clarke, Smith, Watson, Haddin, Siddle, Harris, Lyon, Bird.
Starc dropped again for Bird, Warner from 6 to 1, Watson from 1 to 6. Harris from 10 to 9, Lyon from 11 to 10.
Fifth Test at The Oval – Warner, Rogers, Watson, Clarke, Smith, Haddin, Faulkner, Siddle, Starc, Harris, Lyon.
Bird dropped for Starc, Khawaja dropped for Faulkner, Watson from 6 to 3, Haddin from 7 to 6, Faulkner to bat 7.
The summation of all that is only Clarke, Haddin, Rogers, Smith, Siddle, and Watson will have played all five Ashes Tests, creating little stability.
Harris will have played four. Khawaja, Lyon, Starc, and Warner three each. Pattinson, Agar, and Hughes two each. With Cowan, Bird, and Faulkner one each.
So what does that tell us?
The pleas of Waugh and Ponting have fallen on deaf ears.
Rogers will be the only Australian batsmen in five Tests to bat in the same position.
Rogers, Clarke, Siddle, and Harris are the only Australians deserving of automatic selection, that’s why 17 have been used in the series.
Khawaja, Hughes, and Starc, arguably the three best of the new breed, have been selected and shunted. Certainly no pick and stick there.
Hopefully Warner has sorted out his personal problems, and will play a huge role with Rogers in the return series.
And what to do with Watson? Selectors are damned if they pick him, and damned if they don’t.
Australian coach Darren Lehmann has warned this Test at The Oval will define future careers.
Shane Watson will be one of them.