Ashes January 5, 2007

The contenders

Peter English looks at the players lining up to replacing Australia's retiring veterans

Peter English

Australia's Test team will undergo an enforced shake-up later this year after the retirements of Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Justin Langer. Peter English takes a look at the players jostling for a place in the side.

Opening batsmen

Phil Jaques
He's been hot for years on the domestic scene but has gone cold after a couple of centuries against England at the start of their tour. An aggressive left-hander, Jaques stormed into the one-day side with 94 on debut in 2005-06, but was promptly dropped in favour of the incumbent Simon Katich. He's played two Tests and four ODIs so is already in the selectors' thoughts.

Chris Rogers
The Jaques push from New South Wales is strong, but the voices in the west are demanding the promotion of Chris Rogers. A conversation with David Boon, the Australia selector, where Rogers was told to bat all day instead of aiming always to attack, has led to outstanding results. He has scored 799 Pura Cup runs this summer, including 279 at Perth and a century on a tricky Hobart pitch, and worked on his slow-bowling play with Monty Panesar during an off-season stint at Northamptonshire. Australia's Test players know him too - he scored 219 against them when at Leicestershire in 2005.

Michael Hussey
Opening is his favourite spot and after starring for Australia in the middle order during his first two summers he deserves to be asked where he wants to camp.

Spin bowling

Stuart MacGill
Replacing Shane Warne is going to be impossible, at least in the short to medium term, but Stuart MacGill is the most qualified after being the perennial understudy. His 198 Test wickets at 27.20 are an impressive return and he has the second-best strike-rate of any Australian with more than 100 Test scalps, although he was overlooked for the Ashes for the second series in a row. A knee injury and a club suspension for abuse disrupted his summer and at 35 his international career is teetering. It could be over unless Australia need him desperately, so he might be back in a couple of Tests.

Dan Cullen
Young and critically acclaimed, Dan Cullen shares the same mentor as Shane Warne. Terry Jenner spends hours working on Cullen's offspin in Adelaide and he made his Test debut alongside Warne and MacGill in Bangladesh. He burst on to the state scene with 43 wickets three summers ago, surprising people with his control and a version of the doosra, but his average has expanded (27 wickets at 46 in 2005-06 and 3 at 76 this season) and he also struggled during a stint at Somerset. It is a crucial year.

Cullen Bailey
Cullen Bailey, a legspinner, is another in Jenner's South Australia stable and has been given a licence to attack under Darren Lehmann's captaincy. He's only 22 so don't predict miracles, but he has shown enough to be a contender as he matures. Bailey has captured 17 wickets at 40 in four Pura Cup games this season and will battle for recognition with the New South Wales pair of Beau Casson and Nathan Hauritz.

The fast men

Stuart Clark
The next McGrath will soon be the now McGrath. Five hundred Test wickets might be a bit much to ask for, but three or four years of solid service will help the transition while Mitchell Johnson and Shaun Tait develop into frontliners.

Mitchell Johnson
A bouncy left-armer, Mitchell Johnson may benefit most from McGrath's departure as it will open up a space. Johnson has spent the Ashes series travelling the country as the 12th man after he was superb at the Champions Trophy and the Malaysian tri-series. Now he waits for a Test chance.

Shaun Tait
The shoulder injury that stopped Shaun Tait's progress after he played two Tests on the Ashes tour is fixed and he is back to slinging reverse-swinging yorkers and un-playable short balls. Like Johnson, he has been in Test squads this summer. Like Johnson, he hasn't found an opening.

Ben Hilfenhaus
A bricklayer before last season, Ben Hilfenhaus has quickly built himself an impressive reputation as a swing bowler. A fast man from Tasmania is a rare breed - the last one to play a Test was Greg Campbell in 1989 - and he now needs to prove he can get consistent wickets away from Bellerive Oval.

Nishi Narayanan is a staff writer at ESPNcricinfo