Australia has left England with the Ashes for the first time since 2001, however they still have a long way to go to become the number one ranked Test side again.
That is no easy task with, their next opponents being New Zealand – the number two ranked Test side.
Australia’s first problem is picking a side, and could have as many as five spots up for grabs from the side that played in the fifth Ashes Test.
The likes of Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Tim Paine, Patrick Cummins, Nathan Lyon and Josh Hazlewood all look set to maintain their spots after solid campaigns.
This leaves Marcus Harris, David Warner, Mitch Marsh, Matthew Wade and Peter Siddle all needing to impress in the Sheffield Shield to maintain their spots.
Australian Test Captain, Tim Paine, has almost all but guaranteed a spot for Warner saying “I think he’s got enough credits in the bank,” and, with a Test batting average just under 60, you can understand why Paine would like to play him.
Warner started his Sheffield Shield season with an impressive 125 at the Gabba against Queensland last week, but finished with a golden duck in the second innings.
Warner has been superb at the Gabba with three centuries at the ground including, two when these two sides last meet at the ground in 2015, scoring 163 and 116.
Then, there is Warner’s partner at the other end. Both Harris and Cameron Bancroft had opportunities during the Ashes and both failed to cement their position in the side.
Harris started the Shield season with a blistering 116 at the Junction Oval, on what can only be described as a batsman’s paradise where 1,287 runs were scored for the loss of only 12 wickets.
Both Harris and Bancroft will require runs in the first few rounds of the Sheffield Shield if they want to partner up with Warner.
Plenty of other cricketers will be eyeing selection, including Nic Maddison, who scored a superb 224 while enjoying a 220-run opening partnership with Harris, Joe Burns, Matthew Renshaw and Usman Khawaja. I have Burns as the early front runner.
Many would say Wade would be unlucky to lose his spot given his 117 in the second innings of the fifth Test. However, with an Ashes batting average of 33.7, he leaves much to be desired.
During the Ashes, Wade only passed 30 four times and didn’t make it past double figure on four occasions. Australia needs more consistency from a batsman batting in their top six.
Former Australian Selector, Mark Waugh, tweeted “you seriously think Matthew Wade is a Test match no.4 or 5 at 31 yrs of age?” and he is right. With a career batting average below 30, Wade should not be considered for Test cricket anytime soon.
Many will be pushing their claims for a spot in the Australian middle order, with Travis Head the early front runner, but young Victorian batsman Will Pucovski could also be in the mix after scoring a century in the first shield game of the summer. He was also on the Australia A tour of England earlier this year.
Marsh would have almost certainly maintained his spot in the side with match figures of 7/86 including a five-wicket haul in the first innings of the fifth Ashes Test. However, he is out injured, after punching a wall in the dressing room after getting out for 53 in WA’s first Sheffield Shield game of the season.
Australia could choose to play a specialist batsman here or look to play an all-rounder; I’d go with Head at five and Pucovski at six but, should the selectors want to play an all-rounder, I’d expect to see Marcus Stoinis.
Siddle was brought into the Ashes to provide leadership and experience in the pace attack given he toured England for the 2009, 2013 and 2015 Ashes squads.
Siddle didn’t dominate the series but did provide his usual work horse mantra and played the role he needed to play.
As much as I don’t want to say it, I think we have seen the last of Siddle in the Test set up. However, this has been said before and Siddle has come back multiple times, but with Hazlewood and Cummins now experienced in all conditions it’s hard to see Siddle return to the Test side.
I would be surprised if someone other than James Pattinson or Mitchell Starc play as the third seamer in the first Test, I would go with Pattinson.