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Can this Australian team secure first away Ashes win in 22 years?

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21st April, 2023

The Australian squad for the World Test Championship Final (WTCF) against India and the Ashes in England, both starting in June, has been announced.

Australia still has unfinished business in England regarding the Ashes series, going down in the final Test in 2019 to make it a 2-2 series draw. Australia have not won a series in England since 2001, whereas England are looking to win their first Ashes series since 2015.

Though the focus for Australia may be the Ashes, the World Test Championship Final is an opportunity to win some silverware and for the players to show their form and justify their selection for the Ashes.

There are a couple of surprises in the 17-man squad. Mitchell Marsh in, Michael Neser out, Matthew Renshaw in and Cameron Bancroft out.

The right-hand opening batter Bancroft excelled in the Sheffield Shield season for Western Australia where he made 945 runs at an average of 59, including four centuries. The other out is fast bowler Neser who got 40 wickets from his eight Sheffield Shield matches for Queensland. He also performed well for Australia against the West Indies in the day-night Test, getting five wickets for the match.

Perhaps the reason for Bancroft and Neser not being in the original 17-man squad is because they are already playing County Cricket in England and therefore, it would be easier to bring them into the team. However, Marcus Harris, who has been selected, is also playing in England, albeit in County Division 2 against Neser, whereas Bancroft is in Division 1.

HOBART, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 22: Cameron Bancroft of Western Australia celebrates scoring a half century during the Sheffield Shield match between Tasmania and Western Australia at Blundstone Arena, on February 22, 2023, in Hobart, Australia. (Photo by Steve Bell/Getty Images)

Cameron Bancroft. (Photo by Steve Bell/Getty Images)

Bancroft has made a slow start to the County season for Somerset, only contributing 87 runs in the first two games. In contrast, Harris has made a blistering start to his campaign for Gloucestershire scoring 148 in his first game, although it’s important to note that the game did end in a draw with Gloucestershire amassing 569 runs for the loss of seven wickets in their second innings.


It will be interesting to see how both players go during the County season. Given the recent form that Bancroft has shown for Western Australia, he is unlucky to miss selection in the original squad.

The decision to leave out Neser is difficult to understand, especially given the rationale of rotating the fast bowlers based on the different conditions, a strategy that worked well during the 2019 Ashes series in England. In 2019 it was a case of rotating Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood with both James Pattinson and Peter Siddle.

In 2023 they have Scott Boland to replace one of the three frontline pace bowlers, Pat Cummins, Hazlewood or Starc. The added benefit of having an all-rounder in Cameron Green or Marsh, who played at The Oval in 2019 and got 5/46, is that it allows the potential use of a second spinner with Todd Murphy being added to the squad.

However, it is unlikely there will be that many opportunities to use two spinners.

The fact that Hazlewood has become injury-prone over the last 18 months and that Marsh fits the same role as Cam Green means Neser should have been selected over Marsh.

The selection of an opening batter to partner Usman Khawaja is an interesting one. Khawaja does not have a great record in England, averaging under 20 runs from six matches. However, he has been in career-best form over the past 18 months, which has rejuvenated his career.


David Warner is the elephant in the room. If you look at the evidence of not just his recent form but his last campaign in England it was disastrous. Stuart Broad got him out seemingly for fun. There is speculation that Warner will be selected for the WTCF, and based on his performance a decision will then be made as to his inclusion in the first Test.

The recent Indian campaign has shown how important it is to get your selections right from the beginning. Australia cannot afford to start from behind against England, and for that reason the selectors have probably moved past Warner.

Renshaw is an astute selection for the opening role, he’s performed well in English conditions previously for Somerset in the County Championships Division 1.

Renshaw was selected to represent Australia A in New Zealand where they used Dukes balls – the same that will be used in England. He performed well, making a century in both outings. The bowlers he will face in the Ashes will be a much tougher proposition, but the selectors have confidence he understands the conditions.

Harris has had opportunities at the top of the order but hasn’t fully grasped them yet. He also had a poor time of it during the last Ashes encounter in England, in three matches he only managed 58 runs and four of those innings resulted in single-figure scores. A successful County campaign could have him in the right presence of mind to succeed.

The selectors will start with Harris to partner Khawaja at the top of the order. Although, there are suitable replacements in Renshaw and Bancroft.

The middle order selects itself: Marnus Labuschagne at 3, Steve Smith at 4 and Head at 5. Head was the opener in India and did it very well, but conditions are different in England and Head is more suited to the counter-attacking role at No.5, which he has made his own.

INDORE, INDIA - MARCH 03: Travis Head of Australia bats during day three of the Third Test match in the series between India and Australia at Holkare Cricket Stadium on March 03, 2023 in Indore, India. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Travis Head bats during day three at Holkare Cricket Stadium. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Alex Carey is the first-choice keeper. He struggled massively with the bat in India, the premeditated reverse sweeps being his downfall.

However, that has little relevance in England and he’s been in excellent wicketkeeping form. Josh Inglis is a promising back-up keeper to have, but unless Carey gets injured it is unlikely Inglis will come into the team, even for one of the other top-six batters.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that Starc only played one out of the five Tests in the 2019 Ashes and Pattinson was able to bring similar pace on the occasions when Starc was omitted.

Although we’ve seen in England outright pace isn’t always necessary, accuracy is key and for that reason Boland could have a strong part to play. Starc has improved his consistency and should be given first opportunity.

Nathan Lyon had a poor outing in the first Test in India, but he bounced back in the following three Tests, indicating he can still perform at this level.

Australia has the batting capabilities in the middle order to get enough runs on the board, and importantly the bowlers who can take 20 wickets as England’s batting line-up cannot be curtailed – you need to get them out.


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