Australia name World Test Championship Final and Men's Ashes squad

Australia have revealed their squad for the World Test Championship final and first two Ashes Tests with Marcus Harris, Josh Inglis, and Mitchell Marsh earning recalls

Apr 19, 2023 - 14:44
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Australia name World Test Championship Final and Men's Ashes squad

Australia name World Test Championship Final and Men's Ashes squad

Allrounder Mitchell Marsh is back in the frame for Test cricket for the first time in four years having been named in Australia's 17-man squad for the World Test Championship Final and the start of the subsequent battle for the famous urn.

Marsh has endured several frustrating summers battling injury but performances in his sole first-class outing of the season (a rapid-fire century against Tasmania) and in the white-ball formats against India more recently underscored his potential to swing the outcome of matches.

World Test Championship Final and Men's Ashes squad: Pat Cummins (c), Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Todd Murphy, Matthew Renshaw, Steve Smith (vc), Mitchell Starc, David Warner

As expected, the national selection panel has retained the core line-up that carried Australia to the WTC Final against India through consistent performances over the past two years, with Marcus Harris included as the auxiliary opener behind David Warner and Usman Khawaja.

The squad includes four specialist quicks – captain Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, and Scott Boland – supplemented by the seam bowling of allrounders Cameron Green and Marsh, as well as spin pair Nathan Lyon and Todd Murphy.

Australia's plans to unleash 'wild thing' fast bowler Lance Morris were scuppered with the Western Australian suffering a back injury upon his return from the Test tour of India, while Matthew Renshaw's performances for Australia A against New Zealand A this month ensured he kept his place.

Cameron Bancroft did not win a recall despite finishing the summer as leading runs-scorer in the Marsh Sheffield Shield, and missing from the 18-man squad that lost 2-1 to India earlier this year are spinners Matthew Kuhnemann, Mitchell Swepson and Ashton Agar, as well as middle-order batter Peter Handscomb.

The squad, which will assemble in England in late May, will be trimmed to 15 on May 28 as per ICC requirements for the World Test Championship Final against India at The Oval (June 7-11).

The 17 players named today will then begin preparations for the first two Tests of the subsequent Ashes campaign at Edgbaston (June 16-20) and Lord's (June 28-July 2) before selectors revise the group for the last three Ashes Tests at Headingley, Old Trafford and The Oval.

It will be a maiden Ashes tour for Test incumbents Alex Carey and Green, as well as paceman Boland, off-spinner Murphy who excelled in his debut series in India earlier this year and England-born wicketkeeper-batter Josh Inglis who is the only uncapped member of the squad.

"The World Test Championship is the culmination of more than two years of consistent performance at Test level by the team and the individuals involved, leading into an Ashes series which is always highly anticipated," national selection panel chair George Bailey said today.

"The UK is a very different assignment from our most recent tour of India and some of the changes are based upon the conditions we are anticipating.

"Marcus (Harris), Josh (Inglis, reserve keeper) and Mitch (Marsh) return to the squad and will provide valuable depth and flexibility within their respective skillsets.

"We see value in revisiting the squad following the second Ashes Test given the short turnaround between the WTC Final and the first Ashes Test, along with the length of the tour."

Marsh has played just one first-class in the past two years having missed virtually all of the previous domestic summer after undergoing ankle surgery, and his most recent Test outing was the final match of Australia previous Ashes tour in 2019.

But the 31-year-old provided a reminder of his explosive talent by bludgeoning an unbeaten 108 (from 111 balls) in his sole Shield match of last summer before dominating in his new role as opener in the limited-overs matches that followed the Test series in India.

In recent weeks, Marsh has returned to bowling with Delhi Capitals in the Indian Premier League.

Warner regains his place having missed the last two Tests of the recent Qantas tour of India after suffering a hairline fracture of the elbow when struck by rival quick Mohammad Siraj while batting in the second match at Delhi.

The 36-year-old scored just 95 runs from his five Tests of the 2019 Ashes series at an average of 9.5, and was tormented by veteran England seamer Stuart Broad who dismissed his rival seven times in 10 innings.

But it's less than four months since Australia's second-most prolific Test opener (behind Matthew Hayden) plundered a memorable double century against South Africa's pace attack in his 100th Test and has posted three half-centuries from his five knocks to date for Delhi Capitals in the IPL.

If, as expected, Warner and Khawaja (also 36) are reunited at the top of the batting order they will become the oldest first-wicket combination deployed in an Ashes series since England's Geoff Boycott (40) and Mike Brearley (39) opened at Edgbaston during the 1981 campaign.

Selectors have opted for another left-hander, Harris who played the most recent of his 14 Tests against England at the SCG in January 2022, as the additional specialist opener for the first half of the two-month England sojourn.

He has been preferred to the Shield summer's leading runs scorer Bancroft (945 at 59.06), with Bancroft's most recent Test appearance coming at Lord's during the 2019 Ashes series before he was dropped and replaced by Harris.

When Harris was named among the 24 players who earned Cricket Australia contracts earlier this month, selection chair Bailey noted the 30-year-old boasted a "really good, strong record in England".

Despite losing his place in Australia's Test squad during the recent summer, Harris finished the Sheffield Shield season with 601 runs at 37.56 (including two centuries) and has started well for Gloucestershire in division two of England's county competition where he's averaging 103.

Since being recalled to Australia's line-up for the final Test against South Africa last summer (and then as a concussion substitute for Warner at Delhi), Renshaw has not reached double figures in his three innings.

However, he averaged 50-plus (including an unbeaten double hundred) during the Shield summer and was the stand-out batter for Australia A in New Zealand earlier this month which he finished as leading runs scorer with 332 at 83.0 with two centuries.

England captain Ben Stokes recently revealed his wish for fast, flat pitches throughout the five-Test Ashes battle, to better enable his team to enact their ultra-attacking 'Bazball' batting model brought in by coach Brendon McCullum.

Australia will look to counter that ploy with a fleet of fast bowlers, as was the case in 2019 when they rotated five quicks through as many matches (Cummins, Hazlewood, Starc, James Pattinson and Peter Siddle) and did not deploy Starc until the fourth Test at Manchester.

The notable addition since that series, which ended in a 2-2 draw, is allrounder Green who scored his maiden Test century during the recent tour to India and whose bowling could prove a handy weapon with the Dukes ball in English conditions.

Equally significant will be the capacity of Australia's top-order batters to deal with England's bowling attack led by ageless duo James Anderson (40) and Broad (36) who between them share more than 1250 Test wickets.

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