Jason Behrendorff’s blossoming ODI form could vault him into Ashes contention.
Australia may well pick six quicks in their expected 17-man Ashes squad, which means there’d be room for a trio of fast bowlers to back up the so-called Big Three of Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc.
James Pattinson, Jackson Bird, Chris Tremain and Michael Neser and are in the Australia A four-day squad, which plays its first match against Sussex four days from now.
Jhye Richardson and Peter Siddle are not in the squad for different reasons but surely are a strong chance of making the Ashes squad if fit.
The former was hugely impressive in his two Tests against Sri Lanka last summer, taking six wickets at 20. The 22-year-old operated with a rare mix of swing and extreme accuracy, a combination which makes him an attractive proposition in the UK, where those skills are paramount.
Richardson was also a revelation in ODIs, taking 17 wickets at 21 this year and excelling against the mighty Indian batting line-up, even on their own turf.
Then he dislocated his shoulder against Pakistan in the UAE and was ruled out of this World Cup, which opened the door for Behrendorff.
Richardson is reportedly close to being able to bowl at full pace now and is a chance to play in the Australia v Australia A four-day match starting on July 23.
Siddle, meanwhile, would be a lock in this Ashes squad if I was a selector. No Australian bowler has anywhere near as much experience in the conditions as the Victorian seamer, who has taken 163 wickets 26 in first-class cricket in the UK.
The 34-year-old is only getting better in England, too, having snared 57 wickets at 18 over the past two County Championship seasons. Perhaps more than any other Australian bowler, he is built for playing in the Old Dart.
Siddle’s ability to land the ball on a ten-cent piece and get just enough movement through the air and off the pitch makes him a weapon on moist pitches. He would be in my starting XI if Australia encounter a green, seaming pitch.
When Australia play on drier, flatter surfaces – there were two such pitches in the last Ashes – then I’d sub Siddle out for a more dynamic quick. With their extra bounce and pace, Pattinson and Tremain would be two such impact bowlers to consider. Pattinson’s generous experience and success in the UK should have him ahead of Tremain if he’s fit.
Meanwhile, Richardson, Neser, Bird and Behrendorff could be competing for the swing bowler role.
First-class cricket has always been Behrendorff’s best format. With 126 wickets at 23 he owns a sensational first-class record. Not only does he swing the new ball consistently but he’s one of the best reverse-swing bowlers in the Aussie domestic scene.
The 29-year-old would have played Test cricket several years ago if not for his fragile body, which has seen him miss a ton of cricket. Right now his body is holding together and he’s finding form. Only a few months after making his international 50-over debut, he is a good chance of playing in a World Cup final.
After struggling in his first few ODIs, Behrendorff now appears at home. He has taken 12 wickets at 18 from his last five matches with his late swing proving a huge asset with the new ball.
Watching him trouble batsmen with this movement makes me ponder how effective he could be with a Dukes ball, which swings far more than the white Kookaburra.
I imagine the Australian selectors have had similar thoughts, with performances in ODIs often having swayed their Test selections in recent years.
If Behrendorff maintains his form and helps Australia to a World Cup triumph, don’t be surprised to see him included in the Ashes squad.