Three batting spots in Australia’s next Ashes squad are wide open. While Chris Rogers, David Warner, Shane Watson, Michael Clarke and Steve Smith are locked in, Australia must identify a number six as well as two backup batsmen.
Following on from the piece analysing Australia’s pace options for the Ashes, we run the ruler over Australia’s batting stocks.
This list consists of only those players who are competing for roles as a specialist batsmen, not all-rounders. Each player has been given an “Ashes rating” based on how likely his selection is.
Phil Hughes, 24-years-old
First-class record: 7832 runs at 45
Ashes rating: 7/10
Hughes’s last six Test matches have seen him return just 209 runs at 21, including eight single-figure scores.
His numbers against England are even more depressing – seven Tests for 237 runs at 20.
Yet, it would not be a least bit surprising to see him get selected in the next Ashes squad, mainly due to the selectors’ apparent faith in the fickle left handed batsman.
He remains suspect against both pace and spin, although he is more comfortable in Australian conditions, where the quick, bouncy pitches favour his pet cut shot.
Usman Khawaja, 26-years-old
First-class record: 4425 runs at 41
Ashes rating: 6.5/10
Having been dropped three times in his Test career that spans over nine matches, Khawaja will be uncertain where he sits with the selectors.
He is not alone – it is difficult to get an accurate read on how the selectors view Khawaja.
They manifestly recognise his talent but seem to have little faith in his ability to bat himself into good form.
Like all the players on this list, he needs to produce dominant touch early this summer in order to make it to the squad.
Nic Maddinson, 21-years-old
First-class record: 1863 runs at 41
Ashes rating: 6/10
The flamboyant left-handed batsman has made a robust run for the Ashes squad after dazzling at the recent Australia A tours to Europe and Africa.
Maddinson piled up 528 runs at 75 in the first-class games, including two belligerent tons, scored at a phenomenal 109.
More impressive than that pair of hundreds were his twin rescue efforts in the second unofficial Test against South Africa A.
He scored 88 runs out of a team total of 146 in the first dig and 90 out of 277 in the second innings after twice coming to the crease with Australia in peril.
Originally drafted into the NSW side as an obdurate opener, Maddinson would benefit from finding a balance between his current hyper-aggression and that discarded circumspection.
Alex Doolan, 27-years-old
First-class record: 2953 runs at 38
Ashes rating: 5/10
Doolan would have been close to making the last Ashes squad after a strong Aussie summer, in which he made 715 Shield runs at 42 and cracked an impressive ton against South Africa in a tour match.
However, unlike Maddinson, he failed to capitalise on the recent opportunities he was offered playing for Australia A.
On the two tours, Doolan made 336 runs at 37 with a highest score of 56 not out in nine innings.
The fact he was the only batsman to play in all five of Australia A’s first-class matches suggests the selectors are very keen on the classical Tasmanian.
George Bailey, 31-years-old
First-class record: 5936 runs at 38
Ashes rating: 5/10
Bailey scuppered his chances of playing in the recent Ashes by stumbling in the Shield last summer, when he averaged at just 18.
But as the captain of the Australian T20 side and an integral member of the ODI team, he is clearly held in high regard by the selectors.
That respect, together with his continual crucial innings at ODI level, may over ride the selectors’ concerns about his form slump last Shield season.
Prior to that, he had averaged 43 over his previous three Shield campaigns despite being based on the most difficult pitch in the country at Bellerive Oval.
Bailey averages just 33 in domestic 50-over cricket and yet, has churned out 1061 runs at 46 in ODIs, displaying an ability to take his game to a new level in international competition.
Adam Voges, 33-years-old
First-class record: 8204 runs at 41
Ashes rating: 3.5/10
Similar to Bailey, Voges has displayed a capacity for quickly adapting to international cricket, cracking 721 runs at 48 in ODIs.
Similar to Bailey, Voges blew a possible chance to make the last Ashes squad with a poor Shield season last summer, when he averaged 26 runs.
Also similar to Bailey, Voges will rely upon the selectors weighing his considerable experience and great ODI form over his recent first-class performances.
Jordan Silk, 21-years-old
First-class record: 423 runs at 42
Ashes rating: 2/10
Possessing a pure technique and sound temperament, Silk is arguably better suited to long form of cricket than any other young Aussie batsman.
After debuting at first-class level just six months ago, the patient opener played match-defining roles in two of his first three Shield games for Tasmania.
He scored 52 and 127 runs in a must-win match against Victoria and backed that up by grafting 108 in the final, defying a Ryan Harris led Queensland attack for six hours.
Silk faltered on the Australia A tour of Europe, reaping just 76 runs from four innings.
He should be given at least one more Shield season to develop before being exposed to Test cricket.
But if he starts the Shield season in blazing form, he could be a surprise selection for the Ashes squad.