Australia A in South Africa 2013 June 19, 2013

Ahmed, Agar 'Ashes contenders' - Inverarity


The legspinner Fawad Ahmed remains in contention for a late Ashes call-up despite being named in the Australia A squad to tour Africa while England and Australia battle for the urn. The national selectors have chosen a 16-man group for the trip to Zimbabwe and South Africa in July and August and they have included both Ahmed and the left-arm spinner Ashton Agar, while batsmen Shaun Marsh and Aaron Finch have also been picked despite struggling in the Sheffield Shield last summer.

Steven Smith, who is serving as vice-captain to Brad Haddin on the ongoing Australia A tour of England, will lead the side on the month-long trip, which features a three-day game against Zimbabwe in Harare, followed by two four-day matches against South Africa A. There is also a limited-overs section of the tour and Australia A will play at least four 50-over games during a one-day tri-series featuring South Africa A and India A in Pretoria.

A number of changes were necessary from the squad in England, given that the selectors chose to use that trip as a chance for several Ashes squad members to adjust to the conditions ahead of the official start of the Test tour. The fast bowlers Josh Hazlewood and Gurinder Sandhu have been called up from outside the group in England, as has the wicketkeeper Tim Paine and the trio of Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell and Nathan Coulter-Nile, who played in the Champions Trophy.

Ahmed and Agar, both of whom are in the Australia A team in England, were both named but the national selector John Inverarity left the door open for either man to be added to the Ashes squad. Agar, a 19-year-old left-armer who impressed the selectors when he travelled with the Australians in India earlier this year, has taken 4 for 61 and scored a half-century in his two Australia A matches in England so far, while Ahmed took 1 for 65 in his only game.

"If we decide to expand the Ashes squad and expand it with a spinner, then Ashton Agar and Fawad Ahmed are the two contenders for that position," Inverarity said. "They're both included in this squad and we look forward to them getting more opportunity in this environment."

Finch was named vice-captain of the squad and while there is no question of his claims to a place in the one-day group - he was comfortably the leading Ryobi Cup run scorer last summer with 504 runs at an average of 84 - he will be equally desperate to impress in the first-class games after being overlooked by Victoria for most of the 2012-13 Shield campaign.

The disparity between Finch's short-form and long-form results was one of the great mysteries of the domestic summer, for in four Shield matches at the start of the season he made 0, 34, 1, 8, 9 and 16, and he did not play a Shield game after he was dropped in November. However, Finch did break into the ODI side during the summer and scored heavily as captain of Australia A against the England Lions in a one-day series in February and March.

Like Finch, Shaun Marsh had a domestic campaign that featured few runs in the longer format but plenty in coloured clothing. Marsh was the top scorer in the Big Bash League with 412 runs at 58.85 and in the Ryobi Cup he made 215 at 53.75, but his Shield summer was poor and brought only 152 runs at 19 in four appearances. Marsh turns 30 next month and needs a big tour to prove to the selectors that he has more to offer at international level.

"Shaun at the moment is very fit and focused," Inverarity said. "This will be a really good opportunity for him. There's a lot of cricket there and … it is a really good opportunity for him to kick-start his career a bit."

The inclusions of Marsh and Finch after such disappointing Shield campaigns highlights the lack of batting depth in Australia's domestic game, although Callum Ferguson and Joe Burns could consider themselves unlucky to have been overlooked. Ferguson had a productive season in the Shield and Ryobi Cup and Burns, after a slow start, finished the summer well, although the selectors might have decided he would gain as much from his ongoing county stint with Leicestershire as an A tour.

The Tasmania batsman Jordan Silk was the only non-Ashes squad member to miss out from the Australia A team in England. The fast bowler Pat Cummins will travel with the squad as a development player, much like he has in England, although Inverarity said there could yet be a chance of officially adding him to the squad.

"Pat is progressing very well," Inverarity said. "Currently he is with the Australia A tour in England in a development capacity. He has trained very hard, he's very fit and very strong. Dennis Lillee worked with him and he has refined his action a little to put less stress on his body and we're very keen that he ingrains those habits before we put him into a contest in the field, to ensure that he doesn't revert to old habits under the pressure of the game. It could be that we're ready to give him a run in a couple of games there."

Australia A squad Steven Smith (capt), Aaron Finch (vice-capt), Ashton Agar, Fawad Ahmed, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Alex Doolan, Josh Hazlewood, Moises Henriques, Nic Maddinson, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Tim Paine (wk), Gurinder Sandhu, Chadd Sayers, Pat Cummins (development player).

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Peter on June 22, 2013, 4:09 GMT

    @ zenboomerang, Just to let you know, I know there are 4 one day games, but the first 3 games are an international against Zimbabwe & 2 unofficial tests against SA "A". The first class fixtures should be the ones that the touring side should have been selected, ergo my apprehension about the makeup of the squad. At tour end, you can add whoever you want for one dayers. Some who post may not understand cricket, but please don't assume we all fit your view. The Marshes, Finch, Sandhu simply don't deserve to be selected ahead of many who were far more deserving IMHO.

  • Roo on June 21, 2013, 8:17 GMT

    Good to see some pommy fans still trying to claim Fawad is an import... lol... Just wonder how many of your Saafa players came to England seeking asylum?... Zero... Well that answers that question easily - doesn't it :P

  • Roo on June 21, 2013, 8:16 GMT

    Seems to be a number of ill conceived comms as usual - this is a combined 3/4-day & 1-day game squad with the proviso being that some of these players are backups for both the Test & ODI Eng tour... There are 3 x 3/4 day matches & 5 OD tri-series matches...

    Smith, Doolan, Moey, Agar, Ahmed will be looked as Test backups - Finch, Maxwell, Marsh's, Sandhu, NC-N for ODI's - I see Cummins, Sayers, Hazlewood, Paine, Maddinson + the spinners being looked at as development players and/or giving promising players more cricket time...

    Yes I would have preferred some other candidates, especially 2 more batsmen specialists but it is a compromised squad of 16 that will have to play 2 different formats...

  • Peter on June 20, 2013, 21:36 GMT

    @Nathan Cramb. There is no more passionate Blues supporter than me, but seriously, Sandhu wouldn't make the NSW team when everyone is available, so how can he possibly be in the mix for an Australian A side? Sorry to disagree, but having seem him play, he has potential but is not even in the same area as Cummins & Pattinson. He is behind Copeland by a considerable margin for starters, add McDermott, Cutting to that as well. How does Shaun Marsh, with 152 runs @19 get selected ahead of Cosgrove 784 runs @40? how does a poor first class return from Mitch Marsh get him the gig for a start? How do figures lagging so far behind SOK get Maxwell a start ahead of him? Most are solid selections, but there are a few that are way left field.

  • Dummy4 on June 20, 2013, 11:05 GMT

    Sandu is behind any number of younger bowlers? He's 20 and just as an exciting prospect as Pattinson and Cummins in my opinion.

  • Peter on June 20, 2013, 9:37 GMT

    3 First class matches including 2 unofficial tests against a SA "A" & they select T20 & one day specialists? What has Shaun Marsh done to deserve selection? He was dropped from the WA shield side & gets selected here? And where has Fawad produced anything like a season of results like SOK? Sandhu, while having plenty of potential is surely behind any number of younger bowlers. And Finch? As Vice Captain too? Wow, I am just speechless. There is no logic to this selection, none whatsoever.

  • Ronald on June 20, 2013, 7:25 GMT

    So Ahmed takes 1/65 in his only International outing & now he's considered Ashes material? My God how pathetic are Australia.

  • Dummy4 on June 20, 2013, 4:12 GMT

    Why does everyone seen to like Aaron Finch? His FC record is almost as poor as Mitchell Marsh's and he doesn't even have the benefit of being a good bowler to boot.

    Also in 7 ODI's Finch averages 15 yet if he was a NSW player people would be calling for his head.

  • Dummy4 on June 19, 2013, 19:31 GMT

    Poor Nathan Lyon. He gets grief from the Aussie public, former players, commentators, now his own selectors are basically saying 'we don't think you're that good'. His record is pretty decent for a Test match spinner, I doubt Swann, Panesar or Ajmals figures at that point in their career (wicket and average wise) were that much. Will everyone please get off his back and let the lad bowl.

  • Dummy4 on June 19, 2013, 18:21 GMT

    Agar is an excellent all rounder, he helped WA to two improbable victories with the bat last season, I believe that he has two younger brothers playing cricket in melbourne as well.

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