Great white-ball hopes now see red
Justin Langer tips Australia’s leading batsmen to make immediate impact in the Ashes after copping plenty of attention during World Cup campaign
Louis Cameron in London
13 July 2019, 05:00 PM AEST
David Warner and Steve Smith's transitions back to ODI cricket were smoother than a crisp white Kookaburra ball and coach Justin Langer is bullish it will be the same when they make their returns against the Dukes.
Australia's World Cup campaign ended in disappointment but the pair, subject to incessant heckling from boisterous British crowds that will only get rowdier for the upcoming Ashes, played major roles in helping them reach the final four.
Smith posted crucial half-centuries to lift Australia out of trouble against England in the semi-final on Thursday and West Indies earlier in the tournament after they'd been 4-38, but it was Warner who put in one of the most prolific Cup campaigns ever by an Australian batsman.
Only Rohit Sharma topped his 647 runs at 71.88 for the tournament, including three centuries, with the left-hander making an emphatic statement that he'd lost none of his touch during his 12-month ban.
The upcoming Ashes will however be a different beast altogether.
Warner is expected to return to his preferred opening spot, while Smith, who was the No.1 Test batsman in the world at the time of his ban, will be back in the middle-order.
The duo were relied upon – perhaps too heavily – to carry the run-scoring load of the Test team before their sanctions and it would be a huge ask for them to resume that weight in a country Australian batters have struggled in while they're still reacquainting themselves with international cricket.
But Langer is optimistic they can re-familiarise themselves swiftly.
"Hopefully they get up to speed like they did with the white ball," said Langer.
"They're both absolute professionals, they're very talented, they're great players.
"They'll get back into that. Regardless of the colour of the ball, they'll both be fine."
The Ashes squad won't be announced until after an Australia v Australia A game in Southampton that concludes only six days out from the Ashes series opener at Edgbaston on August 1.
The make-up of the top order, as it invariably has been in recent years, is under the microscope and Langer says the unprecedented clash at the Rose Bowl will help selectors settle on its composition.
The coach expects Usman Khawaja to regain full fitness after his World Cup was cut short by a hamstring strain.
Incumbents Marcus Harris, Kurtis Patterson, Joe Burns and Travis Head, recent Test players Marnus Labuschagne, Peter Handscomb, Mitch Marsh and the domestic season's standout batter Matthew Wade are all among the contenders for a few top-order berths.
"There's going to be some real competition," Langer told reporters after Australia were knocked out of the World Cup by England.
"That's why we want to play the two Australian teams.
"What we've known for so long in Australian cricket there has been such cut-throat competition and that has increased our depth.
"To be able to play a game like that – we won't select the Ashes until a day after that game.
"There is going to be a good opportunity for guys opening and batting in the top six. And the top bowlers as well."
That lower-half of Australia's XI is more settled, with Test captain Tim Paine a lock behind the stumps and the quartet of Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon emerging as the side's most bankable performers.
Breakout performances from Jhye Richardson (currently on the mend from shoulder surgery) last summer, James Pattinson regaining fitness after a luckless few years, plus the veteran know-how of Peter Siddle all present tantalising cases for selection.
Only five fast bowlers are likely to make the squad.
"It's nice to have them all fit," Langer continued. "For the Ashes, we have a number of very good players who are up and running which is good.
"Jhye Richardson, who is a very exciting talent, he'll come back into the fold at some stage. We've got lots of bowling talent in Australia.
"They key is to keep them fit and healthy, and if we do that we'll always be competitive."
2019 Qantas Ashes Tour of England
Tour match: Australia v Australia A, July 23-26
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