The 2020-21 Test summer was one of the more disastrous in recent years for the Australian team.
A 2-1 series loss to a heavily undermanned Indian side left a lot of questions to be asked. These questions weren’t able to be answered in February, as the tour of South Africa was cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns.
Looking ahead, the Aussies are set to play a lone Test against Afghanistan in November before the start of the Ashes. This will serve as a good warm-up for the major series, against a quality Afghan bowling attack.
The way the team will line up for the first Test against the English is relatively predictable. David Warner and Will Pucovski (fitness pending) will likely open, followed by Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Cameron Green at six and captain Tim Paine at seven.
The only real question mark when it comes to the batting line-up is who will bat at five. Here are some potential options.
Travis Head has endured a disappointing fall in the international scene since being named vice-captain in 2019. After a great series against New Zealand in the 2019-20 summer, Head was disappointing against India. In three innings, he scored seven, 38, and 17.
He was then perhaps harshly dropped from the side in favour of Matthew Wade for the last two Test matches. However, he scored 223 in his return for South Australia in the Sheffield Shield.
Before the India series, he had scored a 171* and 151, and was one of the standout batsman of the season. Still just 27 as well, Head is a talented player who may just deserve another shot.
He is currently in the UK with Sussex participating in their county tournament. Good performances here will definitely boost his chances of making the Test team.
Another talented batsman in our ranks is Moises Henriques. The Portugal-born all-rounder was part of the India squad, but only appeared in white-ball matches.
He earned this spot based on innings of 167 against Western Australia and 113 against Tasmania. In his final match before leaving for the IPL, he guided New South Wales to a win over South Australia with an unbeaten 78 in the second innings.
He is also handy with the ball, which does not hurt to have as an option. Henriques is currently with the Punjab Kings in the IPL, perhaps looking to increase his chance of making the squad for the T20 World Cup.
Peter Handscomb is also a viable option for the number five spot. He was stellar in the Shield for Victoria, scoring 84, 124*, 73 and 54*.
He has experience for Australia, playing 16 Tests between 2016 and 2019. Handscomb is now over in the UK, captaining Middlesex, but has started terribly with two ducks and a 17 in three innings so far. Some terrific form before November would be needed for consideration.
Josh Inglis is one of the most dynamic Australian batsman there is. He started the Shield season with a rapid 153*, and just kept on going. Scores of 51 and 125 (at over a run a ball) were not enough to earn a call-up to the Test squad against India.
Instead he played Big Bash cricket with the Perth Scorchers before the Shield season resumption. He scored another century and a 50 in limited batting time due to numerous mega knocks from Cameron Green that led to declaring before Inglis got a chance to bat.
Still just 26, Inglis undoubtedly has a bright future for Australia. However, his future may be as Tim Paine’s replacement as a number seven wicketkeeper-batsman, rather than at number five.
These are the four main options to bat at number five for Australia during the Ashes. It will be interesting to see who the selectors go with and whether they will stick with them for all five games.