Australia name 17-man Ashes squad
Uncapped quick Michael Neser included in extended touring party along with Matthew Wade, Cameron Bancroft and Mitchell Marsh
Sam Ferris in Southampton
27 July 2019, 01:30 PM AEST
Uncapped Queenslander Michael Neser is the surprise selection in Australia's 17-man Ashes squad that is aiming to retain the urn and win in England for the first time since 2001.
Neser, the right-arm seam bowling allrounder, is one of seven fast-bowling options in the squad led by world No.1 Test bowler Pat Cummins, alongside Mitch Starc, Josh Hazlewood, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle as well as recalled allrounder Mitchell Marsh.
David Warner, Steve Smith and Cameron Bancroft have been selected for their first Test tour since the events in Cape Town last year.
Off the back of a mountain of runs at domestic level and starring performances on the Australia A tour of England, Tasmania's Matthew Wade and Queensland's Marnus Labuschagne have earned selection.
Aussie #Ashes squad: Tim Paine (c), Cameron Bancroft, Pat Cummins, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, Steven Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner. pic.twitter.com/gz6XspryKG— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) July 26, 2019
Wade edged out Alex Carey as the squad's reserve wicketkeeper-batter behind captain Tim Paine, while Labuschagne will also serve as the second spinning option, joining Nathan Lyon, with Jon Holland missing out.
Usman Khawaja, who continues to rehabilitate his injured hamstring, has been named and is one of four incumbent batsmen from Australia's last Test against Sri Lanka in February.
Khawaja returns with opener Marcus Harris, middle-order batsman Travis Head and Labuschagne, while Joe Burns and Kurtis Patterson, who each made centuries in Canberra against Sri Lanka, are unlucky to miss selection.
"It has been a difficult task to reduce the 25-player squad here in Southampton down to 17 and those who have not made the final Ashes party are all desperately unlucky," said national selector Trevor Hohns.
"However, that problem also highlights that we have a degree of depth to select from and that is a terrific positive.
"We have had excellent preparations for this series, with eight players from this squad forming part of the Australia A tour that has been in the UK for more than a month, six who took part in the ICC Cricket World Cup, and three who have been playing county cricket. It means the players are acclimatised and ready for the first Test."
The squad boasts flexibility and experience across the board, highlighted by a bowling attack that has four bowlers – Lyon, Starc, Siddle and Hazlewood – with more than 150 Test wickets each, the first time in history Australia have toured England with such a prolific bowling unit.
Neser complements the core bowling group with his ability to swing the Dukes ball both ways, as he has done in the back half of the Sheffield Shield season and in the three four-day matches on tour.
The 29-year-old struggled for rhythm early on in the Australia A campaign, but has peaked at the right time with an impressive display against the England Lions in Canterbury and on day one of the intra-squad clash in Southampton, where he claimed 4-18.
Neser is also a capable batsman, who averaged 43.72 with five half-centuries in the Shield competition last summer for the Bulls in addition to his 33 wickets at 23.03 runs apiece.
Whether Neser makes his Test debut will depend on the fitness and form of Australia's powerful pace battery, which includes Victorian pair Siddle and Pattinson.
The 2019 Ashes will be Siddle's sixth Test series against England and enters at perhaps the peak of his powers having taken 34 wickets at just 20.08 in eight matches for Essex, who sit top of the table in Division One of the County Championship.
Siddle shares an intimate knowledge of England along with Pattinson, who has dominated in English conditions for Nottinghamshire, with both players the lead voices when it has come to planning and implementing bowling plans on tour so far.
It's been a long road back to the Test team for Pattinson, who last wore the Baggy Green in February 2016 in Christchurch.
In the three-and-a-half years between Test call-ups, Pattinson suffered heartbreaking back injuries which led the paceman to undergo radical surgery in November 2017, a last-ditch effort with the 2019 Ashes in mind as his international comeback.
Fast and fired up! James Pattinson's performance in the JLT Sheffield Shield final was elite viewing 🔥🔥 #ShieldFinal pic.twitter.com/JnvQdzGhQI— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) April 1, 2019
The 29-year-old has bowled the house down for Victoria, Nottinghamshire and Australia A this year and is a frontrunner for the first Ashes Test in Birmingham from August 1.
Pattinson's and Siddle's stellar performances in the all-Australian clash in Southampton secured their spots, and the same goes for Bancroft and Labuschagne.
Bancroft posted an unbeaten 93 over four hours in the fourth innings on a pitch described as "borderline dangerous" to guide the Graeme Hick XII to a five-wicket win.
The right-hander's effort, combined with his solid form for Durham in county cricket (726 runs at 45 with two centuries) was enough for the selectors to give him the nod.
He joins Smith and Warner in the Test squad, the first time all three have been eligible for Test selection following their bans (nine months for Bancroft, 12 months for Smith and Warner) in the wake of Cape Town.
Labuschagne has barely had a day to rest since October last year, having made his Test debut in the UAE, played a full summer of domestic cricket for the Bulls, returned to the Test setup in the new year, completed the Shield season before heading straight to Wales to begin his stint with Glamorgan.
The energetic right-hander has made the most of his time in the UK, scoring five centuries to lead the run-scorers list in Division Two of the County Championship, and bowl 192 overs of his improving leg-spin, where he has said it has taken time to adjust to bowling with the Dukes ball.
But it was his knock of 41 on Tuesday that might have secured his Ashes spot as he batted for more than two hours on the spicy Southampton pitch where his side crumbled to be all out for 105 on a day where 17 wickets fell.
While Wade failed to post a big score at the Rose Bowl, he has made a habit of going large over the past 18 months in all forms of cricket.
Alongside Harris, Wade is the other player to accumulate more than 1000 runs during last summer's Shield season, and started the Australia A tour with a bang, scoring whirlwind centuries against Northamptonshire and Derbyshire, the latter the fastest List A hundred by an Australian from just 45 balls.
He backed up those scores with 114 against a strong England Lions attack that featured England Test bowlers Sam Curran and Jack Leach and squad member Lewis Gregory.
Of the players unlucky to miss out, Tasmania's Jackson Bird is at the top of the list.
The 32-year-old captured 50 wickets in the Shield cricket last summer and was perhaps the best bowler behind Pattinson on the A tour, but it appears Neser's ability with the bat might have given the Queenslander the edge.
The 17-man squad travels to Birmingham tomorrow to begin preparations for the first Ashes Test, which starts on Thursday.
The last time Australia's men's side won the Ashes on English soil was 18 years ago when Steve Waugh captained a star-studded side to a 4-1 series triumph.
Waugh is part of Australia's squad as a mentor until the second Test at Lord's and said on selection morning he is "convinced" the current crop has what it takes to break the drought.
2019 Qantas Ashes Tour of England
Australia squad: Tim Paine (c), Cameron Bancroft, Pat Cummins, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, Steven Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner.
Tour match: Australians v Worcestershire, August 7-9
Second Test: August 14-18,Lord's
Third Test: August 22-26, Headingley
Tour match: Australians v Derbyshire, August 29-31
Fourth Test: September 4-8, Old Trafford
Fifth Test: September 12-16, The Oval