While Australia fight for funds, England eye Ashes

Ronan O'Connell Columnist

By Ronan O'Connell, Ronan O'Connell is a Roar Expert

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24 Have your say

    A week from now, Usman Khawaja, Glenn Maxwell, Hilton Cartwright and Ashton Agar were scheduled to line up for Australia A with a chance to win spots in the Test XI for next month’s series in Bangladesh.

    Instead, that ‘A’ series in South Africa may be cancelled, while the Bangladesh tour is in doubt due to the ongoing pay dispute between Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers Association.

    The Australia A players have said they will abandon the tour of South Africa unless a new memorandum of understanding is signed by this Friday.

    Amid the analysis of this dispute, there has been plenty of focus on the potential for this summer’s Ashes to be majorly disrupted, perhaps even void of star players as they strike. But, even if the dispute is resolved well before the Ashes, Australia’s preparation for the blockbuster home series now looks like it will be badly hindered anyway should the ‘A’ tour be abandoned.

    It is difficult to see how a resolution in the protracted dispute will be reached in time to go ahead with the first unofficial Test in South Africa a week from now.

    The two first-class matches against South Africa A would have informed selections not just for the Ashes but also for the two-Test tour of Bangladesh.

    The ‘A’ series was intended to be a trial for starting spots against Bangladesh for Khawaja, Maxwell, Agar and Cartwright, all of whom were named in both the 13-man Test squad and the ‘A; squad. The series also is the only chance the Australian selectors would have to assess potential Ashes picks on hard pitches before the Sheffield Shield starts just weeks out from the first Test against England.

    It would be a crucial audition for the likes of pacemen Jackson Bird, Chadd Sayers and Jason Behrendorff, all-rounder Travis Head, and keeper Alex Carey, all of whom are a realistic chance of playing a part in the Ashes. Should the tour be abandoned, those players would have only two Shield matches to push their case before Australia announce their squad for the first Ashes Test.

    Jackson Bird celebrates

    Ross Setford/SNPA via AP

    In the shorter term, Australia look set to arrive in Bangladesh unsettled and poorly prepared, should that Test series go ahead at all – that tour already shaped as a potential stumbling block for the Australians ahead of the Ashes.

    In three of the past four calendar years, Australia’s Test team has been badly destabilised by a shocking performance on a tour of Asia. Bangladesh must surely be feeling more and more confident each day the pay dispute drags on.

    On home turf, the Tigers have more than enough ability to defeat even a stable and confident Australian outfit. Now it seems that, if they do tour Bangladesh, the Australians may well arrive with major selection questions unanswered due to the cancellation of the ‘A’ tour.

    England, too, will be getting a growing sense that the turmoil in Australian cricket is inching them closer to an Ashes upset. Were the Bangladesh series cancelled, suddenly Australia would be decidedly vulnerable this summer.

    If you like a punt, right about now would be a good time to put some coin on England retaining the Ashes.

    Ronan O
    Ronan O'Connell

    Ronan O'Connell has been a journalist for well over 13 years, including nine at daily newspapers in WA. He now traverses the world as a travel photojournalist, contributing words and photography to more than 30 magazines and newspapers including CNN, BBC, The Toronto Star, The Guardian, The South China Morning Post, The Irish Examiner and The Australian Financial Review. Check out his work and follow him on Twitter @ronanoco

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    The Crowd Says (24)

    • July 5th 2017 @ 5:33am
      Jumbo said | July 5th 2017 @ 5:33am | ! Report

      I disagree.

      I think this will bring the players closer together.

      Whatever you think of the merits of their case, it’s impressive how they’ve stuck by each other.

      • July 5th 2017 @ 8:25am
        jameswm said | July 5th 2017 @ 8:25am | ! Report

        I agree on that. But what about preparation? Who is setting their physical preparation – strength and conditioning? How are they practising their skills? How will they get match practice if there is no Sheffield Shield?

        • July 5th 2017 @ 8:43am
          Basil said | July 5th 2017 @ 8:43am | ! Report

          I’m with Jumbo….Who needs preparation when you’ve got unity?

          • Columnist

            July 5th 2017 @ 9:08am
            Ronan O'Connell said | July 5th 2017 @ 9:08am | ! Report

            I don’t think team unity will be an issue. But Australia look likely to have a poor preparation in a number of ways for next month’s Tests in Bangladesh (if they go ahead).

            And if they go into that series poorly prepared they easily could lose to Bangladesh, which in turn would put them under far greater pressure heading into the Ashes.

            • July 5th 2017 @ 11:57am
              Basil said | July 5th 2017 @ 11:57am | ! Report

              Hi Ronan. I was being sarcastic.

            • Roar Guru

              July 6th 2017 @ 8:59am
              Ryan H said | July 6th 2017 @ 8:59am | ! Report

              Definitely true

              Although ironically Australia normally has inadequate preparation for home test series, because only weeks prior they’re playing rather meaningless and long-winded ODI series against someone, and the test players might only get 1-2 actual Shield games in beforehand.

        • Roar Guru

          July 5th 2017 @ 10:43am
          Rellum said | July 5th 2017 @ 10:43am | ! Report

          They could go back to using the nets like the good old days.

          Maybe we will see a rebel Shield season???

    • July 5th 2017 @ 10:37am
      Nic said | July 5th 2017 @ 10:37am | ! Report

      Whilst I doubt that either tour will go ahead, neither are particularly great preparations for an Ashes series in Australia as the conditions (winter in SA on slow seamers and dustbowls in Bangladesh) are as about as far removed from Brisbane, etc as could be

      Players would probably be just as well prepared by playing a full Matador Cup plus a couple of Shield matches

    • Roar Guru

      July 5th 2017 @ 12:14pm
      Giri Subramanian said | July 5th 2017 @ 12:14pm | ! Report

      Is the series even happening? The pay dispute has become a joke now. Needs to be resolved ASAP. Well England always think about the Ashes, so nothing new there.

      • July 5th 2017 @ 7:13pm
        JW89 said | July 5th 2017 @ 7:13pm | ! Report

        Hi Giri,

        Speaking from England I can guarantee you that we aren’t thinking about the Ashes right now. After an excellent Champions Trophy with a great final and now a monster Test series starting against SA, nobody here is mentioning or thinking of winter travels yet.


        • July 5th 2017 @ 9:37pm
          Ozinsa said | July 5th 2017 @ 9:37pm | ! Report

          Also speaking from England I must politely disagree JW. I’ve read 4-5 cricket stories in the last week and, whilst ostensibly about the upcoming SA series they all made mention of the Ashes. At the ground level, I played in a 6/side day at East Meon on Sunday and very discussion found it’s way to the Ashes (via the Lions v AB’s) and skipped the SA series completely.

          The Ashes is front and centre of English thinking and, as Ronan states, they’re going to be much better prepared than we will be

    • July 5th 2017 @ 1:05pm
      Christo the Daddyo said | July 5th 2017 @ 1:05pm | ! Report

      Let’s say the dispute doesn’t get resolved this year. Is CA able to actually stage an Ashes series? I presume some players would sign up in defiance of ACA instructions (it’s all very well for multi-millionaire stars to be stubborn, but the lesser lights would need to pay their bills somehow…).

      Maybe this would present an opportunity to discover a whole new generation of stars? Current crop might need to consider the possibility they strike themselves out of ever playing Test cricket for Australia!

      • Roar Guru

        July 5th 2017 @ 1:54pm
        Matt H said | July 5th 2017 @ 1:54pm | ! Report

        If this happens CA will lose what little support they have, their next TV deal will be a stinker and crowds will fall as our B team gets flogged around the world. the problem CA have is that ACA have a monopoly on professional cricketers in this country but CA no longer have a monopoly over playing cricket, as there are plenty of T20 leagues for the top players to head off to. Sure, this means the ‘lesser lights’ who can;t get these contracts may break the strike, but we will be in worse shape than in the mid 80’s.

        • July 5th 2017 @ 2:02pm
          Nic said | July 5th 2017 @ 2:02pm | ! Report


          During WSC, every “replacement” player was already playing first class cricket or had done so e.g. Simpson

          If the same thing were to happen today, it would literally be a bunch of grade cricketers as there is nobody left

      • Roar Guru

        July 5th 2017 @ 2:03pm
        Rellum said | July 5th 2017 @ 2:03pm | ! Report

        I wouldn’t be presuming that at all, and if no FC players are available, will CA pick grade players? Would that acceptable to you? I assume based on your comments you would then put a line through all current FC players for future baggy greens as well if that happened?

        Animosity on both sides is starting to get to irreparable levels. CA and the ACA need to start actually talking now.

        • July 5th 2017 @ 4:02pm
          Nic said | July 5th 2017 @ 4:02pm | ! Report

          Not at all

          IMO, the current situation is a disgrace that reflects extremely poorly on both sides but particularly CA.

          It is a monumental failure of management to have this being played out in public whilst 200+ players are in unpaid limbo and despite having more than 8 months to achieve a viable outcome

      • July 6th 2017 @ 7:50pm
        davros said | July 6th 2017 @ 7:50pm | ! Report

        Christo …im not sure you recognise all the playing group ….and the feeling between them …there are a lot of leaders and a lot of mates across all the state sides.

        They all know each other  well …they all tour together socialise etc etc …its a pretty tight knit group !

        imagine playing in vic for eg …having been a scab ?

        How do u think a Cam White or a Dan christian is going to treat a young guy …who takes the 30 pieces of silver ?

        They all know this and i think the respect of ones peers is a major factor …would you like to be known as the one who buckeled and scabbed on his mates …especially since there is a decent quid to be earned by players …exactly because they won it and stayed soild in the past ?

    • July 5th 2017 @ 3:24pm
      AGordon said | July 5th 2017 @ 3:24pm | ! Report

      Ronan, you’re dreaming with the headline for this article.

      Right now, the only thing the Poms are eyeing is playing South Africa and avoiding a hiding. Joe Root, brand new captain, no stable opening partner for Cook, a middle order that is still evolving and lots of questions about their attack, especially the lack of a quality spinner.

      I also fail to see how a tour of South Africa can be seen as any sort of a guide for selections for Bangladesh. The pitches are wildly different as are the attacks and the batsmen our bowlers would face in SA have completely different techniques than the Bangladeshis. In similar vein, the tour of Bangladesh is over by the second week in September to give our guys a chance to get some game time in Australia before the Ashes starts on 23 November.

      We lose nothing by missing either tour, except the chance to look at a few guys in SA who might be in Ashes consideration. The Poms hopefully will get belted and will have zero confidence when they face our quicks at the Gabba. Can’t wait.

      • July 5th 2017 @ 9:12pm
        Mike Dugg said | July 5th 2017 @ 9:12pm | ! Report

        A hiding from South Africa? Have you seen what shape the South Africans are in? Only de kock and Amla are decent batsmen. Morkel is a has been. They are a rebuilding team in disarray

        • Columnist

          July 5th 2017 @ 11:49pm
          Glenn Mitchell said | July 5th 2017 @ 11:49pm | ! Report

          Mike, with Vernon Philander (161 wickets at 22.4) & Kagiso Rabada (71 wickets at 23.7), along with developing spinner Kesha Maharaj I think their bowling is in pretty good shape.

        • Roar Guru

          July 6th 2017 @ 9:04am
          Ryan H said | July 6th 2017 @ 9:04am | ! Report

          True, they are fairly reliant now on Amla and de Kock getting runs, and Rabada tormenting opponents with the ball. However this series for them against England will be a great test for new players like de Bruyn and Kuhn. Bavuma is not in the best form but I think the quality is there; stepping in as captain Elgar will need to be at his bludgeoning best at the top. I’m not sure they can win the series being in England, and how normally formidable the English are there, but you cannot count them out, they often produce better cricket when it’s least expected and their backs are against the wall.

          • July 6th 2017 @ 12:15pm
            JimmyB said | July 6th 2017 @ 12:15pm | ! Report

            England haven’t beaten SA at home for nearly 20 years so I would say that their focus will be squarely on the forthcoming series and not on the Ashes, although as with any series, good performances in the prior usually lead to selection in the latter.
            The fact that Gary Ballance is batting at 3 doesn’t fill this Englishman with much confidence, regardless of the fact that he’s averaging over 100 in the County Championship this year.
            England have also picked two spinners at Lords for the first time in nearly 20 years too.

    • July 6th 2017 @ 7:26pm
      BurgyGreen said | July 6th 2017 @ 7:26pm | ! Report

      How unlucky will it be for Bangladesh if we cancel two tours in a row.

      This dispute is a joke with neither side even pretending to be willing to compromise. Both the Bangladesh tour and the Ashes are in serious danger as there appears to have been zero progress since the beginning of the standoff.

      • July 7th 2017 @ 1:43am
        Don Freo said | July 7th 2017 @ 1:43am | ! Report

        The dispute will have one certain outcome. Changes at the top of CA. There will be a coup. This is incompetent and the players know they have all the cards.

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