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The Ashes: Australia squad profiles

20 十一月 2017 19:00

Any Ashes squad comes under plenty of scrutiny, but Australia's selection for the first Test against England unquestionably attracted more attention than usual.

The shock recall of wicketkeeper Tim Paine represented an unexpected curveball, while few would have anticipated Matt Renshaw being axed at the top of the order despite his recent poor form.

Rookie Cameron Bancroft will take Renshaw's place in Brisbane, while Shaun Marsh has been given another chance to nail down a middle-order berth.

Ahead of the series opener, we take a look at the 12 players Australia will pick from at the Gabba.

 

BATSMEN

Steve Smith (captain, New South Wales) - Age: 28, Tests: 56, Ave: 59.66

Given Smith's prolific run-scoring in recent years, it is easy to forget Australia's skipper appeared somewhat out of his depth when he began his Ashes career batting at six in the 2010-11 series. At that time, Smith was a genuine all-round prospect, his leg-spinning talents and blond hair predictably prompting unwise comparisons with the great Shane Warne. Yet it is as an out-and-out batsman that Smith has ultimately flourished so stunningly - as evidenced by his Test average of almost 60 and a haul of 20 five-day hundreds since his maiden Ashes ton in August 2013.

David Warner (New South Wales) - Age: 31, Tests: 66, Ave: 47.94

If Smith is Australia's undoubted key man with the bat, the pugnacious Warner is not far behind. A man who made a spectacular international debut in 2009 before he had even played first-class cricket, smashing 89 off 43 balls in a Twenty20 against South Africa, Warner remains an intimidating, attacking presence. However, a hugely impressive Test record - 5,705 runs at 48 - shows Warner is also that most prized of assets, a reliable opener in the longest format.

Cameron Bancroft (Western Australia) - Age: 24, Tests: 0, Ave: N/A

Bancroft will make his Test debut in Brisbane having hit career-best form at just the right time. The opener struck 228 not out against South Australia in the week the hosts' Ashes squad was announced - to follow up scores of 76* and 86 in his previous outing - and was consequently picked ahead of Renshaw, whose own Sheffield Shield returns have been meagre. A highly-rated batsman who can also keep wicket, Bancroft was in Australia's Test squad to tour Bangladesh in 2015, only for the tour to be cancelled due to security concerns.

Usman Khawaja (Queensland) - Age: 30, Tests: 24, Ave: 45.47

After flattering to deceive in previous stints at Test level, Khawaja looked to have finally cemented his place in Australia's five-day side with a spectacularly productive 2015-16 season, in which he made four first-innings hundreds in succession against New Zealand and West Indies. Khawaja also shone at home versus South Africa and Pakistan at this stage of the previous campaign, but was nevertheless dropped for the subsequent tour of India and also missed his country's second Test against Bangladesh after failing in the first. A classy operator with a languid style, Khawaja may fear another axing if he starts the series poorly, despite his healthy returns on home soil.

Peter Handscomb (Victoria) - Age: 26, Tests: 10, Ave: 53.07

Called up for last year's Adelaide Test against South Africa in the wake of Australia's humiliating capitulation in Hobart, Handscomb immediately looked assured at the highest level. Another player who can don the wicketkeeping gloves, Handscomb relies on an idiosyncratic technique that sees him stand deep in the crease to pace bowling. Having impressed in the early stages of his Test career, he now faces his biggest challenge yet.

Shaun Marsh (Western Australia) - Age: 34, Tests: 23, Ave: 36.00

A batsman who has been dropped and recalled on numerous occasions in a largely underwhelming Test career, Marsh is back in favour once again. His rivals for the number-six slot all failed to impress in the opening rounds of the Sheffield Shield season, meaning a solid return of 234 runs from six knocks was enough to earn Marsh yet another chance. He last featured, somewhat unsuccessfully, on Australia's tour of India in February and March, before losing his central contract and being axed for the subsequent Tests in Bangladesh.

 

WICKETKEEPER

Tim Paine (Tasmania), Age: 32, Tests: 4, Ave: 35.87

More than seven years on from his last Test appearance, wicketkeeper-batsman Paine has been handed a remarkable recall despite not taking the gloves for his state, Tasmania, at the start of the domestic season. Matthew Wade is Tasmania's first-choice stumper, but he and Peter Nevill have each struggled for runs. Paine, whose career was badly derailed by a succession of finger injuries following his four Test outings in 2010, is rated by many as the best gloveman in Australia and will now get an unexpected opportunity to show why.

 

BOWLERS

Mitchell Starc (New South Wales), Age: 27, Tests: 36, Ave: 28.35

Mitchell Johnson terrorised England on their last Ashes tour and fellow left-arm paceman Starc will look to do likewise over the coming weeks. The New South Wales quick could hardly have made a bigger statement in the lead-up to the first Test; his seven-wicket haul against Western Australia earlier this month featured hat-tricks in both innings. In addition to spearheading Australia's attack, Starc is also a handy, hard-hitting batsman boasting a Test-best score of 99. His wife, Alyssa Healy, is part of the Australia squad that retained the Women's Ashes last week.

Pat Cummins, Age: 24, Tests: 5, Ave: 25.38

At long last, Cummins is set to play his first Tests on home soil. Having burst onto the scene as a teenager in 2011, taking 6-79 in the second innings of a thrilling victory over South Africa in Johannesburg, Cummins was severely hampered by a succession of injuries, but in 2017 he has finally added to his solitary previous Test cap. Arguably Australia's fastest and most intimidating bowler, Cummins will hope to have the same effect as Johnson four years ago. "I'd love to play that role," he said recently. "Hopefully the wickets have a bit of pace and bounce."

Nathan Lyon, Age: 30, Tests: 69, Ave: 31.83

An off-spinner curiously underrated for many years, Lyon is now Australia's seventh-highest wicket-taker in Tests and appears to have a fine chance of sitting third on that list - behind only Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath - by the time he finishes his career. Warne is the only slow bowler to have claimed more Test scalps than Lyon, who has also performed strongly against England in the past. A cult hero among Australia fans, he picked up a remarkable 22 wickets in the recent two-Test tour of Bangladesh, returning match figures of 13-154 in the second match.

Josh Hazlewood, Age: 27, Tests: 36, Ave: 28.35

Starc and Cummins may be the most eye-catching members of Australia's attack, but Hazlewood is at least as important as his fellow quicks, as illustrated by a Test record of 118 wickets at 26. A tall and naggingly accurate seamer, not dissimilar to the great McGrath, he has received high praise from team-mate Lyon ahead of the series. "Josh Hazlewood, in my book, is the best fast bowler in the world, and by a long way," said Lyon.

Jackson Bird, Age: 30, Tests: 8, Ave: 27.47

A seamer who relies on accuracy rather than express pace, Bird initially broke into Australia's Test side five years ago but was soon dropped despite taking seven wickets against Sri Lanka in only his second Test. Five further outings in 2016 took his tally of Test caps to eight, and he will begin this series as the first man in line should any of his country's frontline pacemen pull up lame or suffer a dramatic loss of form.

Chadd Sayers, Age: 30, Tests: 0, Ave: N/A

The selection of Sayers has been made with the second Test in Adelaide, a day-night fixture, in mind. Last year's leading wicket-taker in the Sheffield Shield, Sayers has yet to make his international debut, but will be a contender to feature in the pink-ball Test, given his ability to find swing. He has started the 2017-18 season in good form, picking up 14 wickets in three matches.

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