Vodafone Men's Ashes
Aussies name unchanged squad for rest of Ashes
Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood confirmed to come back into the extended Australia ahead of the Boxing Day Test as selectors ponder squeeze for bowling spots
20 December 2021, 04:52 PM AEST
Australia face a selection squeeze in their fast-bowling ranks with captain Pat Cummins and fellow quick Josh Hazlewood both in line to return for the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne next week.
Opener Marcus Harris has retained his spot in a 15-man squad for the three remaining Vodafone Ashes Tests at the MCG, SCG and Hobart (under lights), while Usman Khawaja remains the only back-up batter in the touring party.
Pacemen Jhye Richardson and Michael Neser have both been impressive after being called in for Cummins (who is missing the ongoing Adelaide contest after being a COVID-19 close contact) and Hazlewood (side injury) for the second Test against England.
But both could now be on the chopping block, giving selectors a welcome headache.
Australia squad for remaining Ashes Tests: Pat Cummins (c), Steve Smith (vc), Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Marcus Harris, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Michael Neser, Jhye Richardson, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson, David Warner
Less welcome will be the form of Harris, whose struggles against England have continued in this series. The left-hander averages 22.19 from 12 Test innings, a figure that drops to 10.66 against the old enemy.
Stuart Broad has resumed his hold over him in Adelaide, dismissing for the fourth and fifth times in their short history against one another, leading some to suggest Khawaja could replace him as David Warner’s opening partner for the third Test.
Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting is adamant that will not happen, but he did suggest Harris could be playing for his international future in Melbourne.
Leg-spinner Mitchell Swepson remains in Australia’s squad, with his most likely path into the XI appearing to revolve around the possibility of a turning pitch at the SCG where the hosts could look to partner Nathan Lyon with the Queenslander.
The Sydney venue is said to take the most spin of any of the country’s Test grounds though Australia have not played two specialist spinners there since 2016 when Stephen O’Keefe played with Lyon.
It is early days but if Australia take a 3-0 lead after the MCG, selectors may see it as an opportunity to blood the highly rated Swepson, who has dominated Sheffield Shield cricket and emerged as the clear No.2 slow bowler in the country behind Lyon.
The uncapped 28-year-old looms as an important weapon for upcoming tours of the subcontinent. Australia are scheduled to tour Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India over the next 12 months, while the postponed 2020 tour of Bangladesh is still to be rescheduled.
The Aussies are unlikely to be looking that far ahead just yet, with an Ashes series still on the line.
Fast bowlers Scott Boland and Mark Steketee, who were flown into Adelaide as last-minute cover following Cummins’ dramatic withdrawal last week, have dropped out of the squad.
Vodafone Men's Ashes
Australia: Pat Cummins (c), Steve Smith (vc), Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Marcus Harris, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Michael Neser, Jhye Richardson, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson, David Warner
England: Joe Root (c), James Anderson, Jonathan Bairstow, Dom Bess, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Haseeb Hameed, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Ollie Pope, Ollie Robinson, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood
First Test: Australia won by nine wickets
Second Test: December 16-20, Adelaide Oval
Third Test: December 26-30, MCG
Fourth Test: January 5-9, SCG
Fifth Test: January 14-18, Blundstone Arena