Hohns sheds light on make-up of Ashes squad
Selector discusses the probable size of Australia’s Ashes squad, how many fast bowlers will be picked and the need to back-up spinners and wicketkeepers
Sam Ferris in Canterbury
14 July 2019, 04:12 PM AEST
National selector Trevor Hohns has shed some light on the makeup of Australia's potential Ashes squad that is set to be named less than a week out from the first Test.
Speaking on Saturday in Canterbury on the eve of a four-day clash with the England Lions, Hohns revealed Australia's Ashes squad is set to be capped at 16 players, with "12 or 13" core players already chosen.
"I always ask for flexibility in numbers but at the moment we're heading towards 16 at this stage," Hohns told cricket.com.au.
"Sixteen is historically been about the right number.
"On the odd occasion there might have been one more, doubtful there's been much less for an Ashes tour.
"It's quite a hectic program with five Test matches pretty close together.
"There's probably 12 or 13 (names) that you could be write down right now.
"There's still spots up for grabs, there's no doubt about that."
Just who fills those vacancies will be determined over the coming weeks, starting with the Lions clash on Sunday and the all-Australian intra-squad showdown from July 23-26 in Southampton.
Twenty-five players have been named for the clash in Southampton, with two teams of 12 set to battle it out over four highly-intense days of cricket.
With a dozen players per team, it's likely four specialist fast bowlers will play on each side out of the pool of Mitch Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, Jackson Bird, Chris Tremain and Michael Neser.
Of that group, only five are set to be selected in the Ashes squad, according to Hohns.
"That's normal for an Ashes tour of five Test matches," Hohns said.
"With (the Tests) being close together as well, with five (fast bowlers) it also gives us the opportunity to manage our fast bowlers a little better, that's what we'll be attempting to do.
"I think these days our fast bowling group understands that.
"Sometimes it's physically difficult for them to back up when Test matches are close together."
The Ashes campaign features essentially three sets of back-to-back matches of high importance, starting with Australia versus Australia A match (July 23-26) into the first Test in Birmingham (August 1-5).
After a three-day tour match in Worcester, the Ashes moves to London for the second Test at Lord's (Aug 14-19) before heading to Manchester for the start of the third Test just four days later.
The campaign concludes with one final tour match in Derby before the fourth Test at Old Trafford and fifth Test at The Oval in September, which are separated by only four days.
Hohns said the pitches that will be rolled out across the series will play a key part in determining the composition of the bowling attacks.
While it's unlikely Australia will face conditions that will require two specialist spinners, Hohns says the selectors are seriously considering taking two tweakers, if only to have cover in case veteran Nathan Lyon is struck down with injury.
"Historically, most times there has been a reserve spinner (in an Ashes squad) and that's something we'll certainly have to be wary of and take into consideration," Hohns said.
"The main issue there is if anything was to happen to Nathan Lyon, particularly on a game day or a couple of days out from a Test match, it's probably necessary to have some cover."
Sticking with precedent, Hohns says the squad will likely feature two gloveman, with skipper Tim Paine the first-choice wicketkeeper and South Australian Alex Carey the frontrunner to be his deputy after a superb World Cup.
"He's proving himself to be a very smart cricketer," Hohns said of Carey.
"He played very well in the World Cup; batting-wise he was very, very good.
"He showed calmness in a lot of difficult situations.
"He's been very impressive. We've been very impressed with his glovework for some time now so he's progressing nicely."
The Ashes squad is set to be named after the conclusion of the Southampton fixture on July 26.
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