The Ashes 2013

Who could be Australia's Ashes bolters?

Australia's selectors will name the Ashes squad on Wednesday. Here, ESPNcricinfo runs the rule over five men from the fringes who might have been considered by John Inverarity's panel

Brydon Coverdale

April 23, 2013

Comments: 35 | Text size: A | A

Ashton Agar in follow-through, Queensland v Western Australia, Sheffield Shield, Brisbane, February 2013
Ashton Agar made his first-class debut only three months ago but could be a surprise choice in the Ashes squad © Getty Images
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Chris Rogers
What do Kevin Pietersen, Alastair Cook, Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott all have in common? None of them have made as many runs in county cricket as Chris Rogers. For the past nine years, Rogers has been spending his Australian winters on the county circuit and has piled up 9375 first-class runs at an average of 54.19 for Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and Middlesex combined. He started this season with another pair of half-centuries at Trent Bridge. At 35, Rogers may not be a long-term Test prospect but he could be an ideal man for the short-term requirements of back-to-back Ashes series this year, especially given his knowledge of English conditions. Only Ricky Ponting and Mark Cosgrove scored more Sheffield Shield runs last summer than Rogers, whose only Test appearance came five years ago. The tour of India showed that in the post-Michael Hussey era, Australia's batting order looks as fragile as Pat Cummins' body and Rogers, who has more than 19,000 first-class runs to his name, could be the man to strengthen it.

Shaun Marsh
Australia's domestic batting stocks might not have the depth the selectors would like but even so it has been surprising that Shaun Marsh's name has emerged over the past few days as a potential Ashes tourist. Marsh's talent is not in question; he showed by scoring 141 on Test debut in Sri Lanka in 2011 that he can play at the elite level. But he has not been the same since he suffered a back injury on the 2011 tour of South Africa and nothing in his first-class form suggests a recall is warranted. Since that South African trip he has scored 364 first-class runs at an average of 17.33. He was the leading run scorer in the Big Bash League last season but the selectors should have learnt from their Xavier Doherty mistake in India: you don't pick Test players based on limited-overs form.

Ashton Agar
Nathan Lyon will be Australia's first-choice spinner in the Ashes squad but the question of who will provide backup is a fascinating one. Certainly it cannot be Doherty after his limited impact in India, and the allrounder Glenn Maxwell is not yet a frontline bowler. That could mean a rapid promotion for Ashton Agar, who made his first-class debut in January. A tall left-arm spinner who impressed the selectors when he travelled with the Test squad at the start of the Indian tour to gain experience, Agar finished the Shield season with 19 wickets at 28.42 in five games; among spinners only Steve O'Keefe took more. Agar also showed himself to be a very handy lower-order batsman and scored two half-centuries in his five matches. At 19, Agar remains raw but given the lack of spin options around Australia he would be far from the worst choice.

Fawad Ahmed
If he had an Australian passport, Fawad Ahmed would be a near certainty to be part of this squad but unless the federal government fast-tracks his citizenship, he will not be eligible to play for Australia until the fifth and final Ashes Test at The Oval. A more likely scenario is that he will play a part in the home Ashes series later this year. Still, he will always be in the back of the minds of the selectors, given how impressive he has been this summer. A legspinner from Pakistan who was last year granted permanent residency in Australia, Ahmed turns the ball sharply and collected 16 wickets at 28.37 in three Shield games for Victoria this season. The retired batsman Damien Martyn faced Ahmed this season and said he was the best spinner in Australia since Shane Warne, and Stuart MacGill said he was "definitely worth a place in the Ashes squad". But unless Cricket Australia has inside information that a passport is on its way to Ahmed, he will have to wait.

Chadd Sayers
Fast bowling is far from the biggest problem area faced by John Inverarity and his selection panel. Peter Siddle, James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc, Ryan Harris, Jackson Bird, Ben Hilfenhaus, Mitchell Johnson, James Faulkner, Nathan Coulter-Nile - there are plenty of options from whom to choose. But if they look to the most recent Shield season they will see at the top of the wicket tally the name of Chadd Sayers, who claimed 48 victims for South Australia at an average of 18.52. Despite the long list of candidates who have built credentials over a longer period than Sayers, what might just give him the sniff of a chance is the way he takes many of his wickets: with late outswing to the right-handers. In England, that is a style that has proven effective in the past, and it is not completely out of the question that he could sneak in for the final fast-bowling slot in the squad. If not, he should at least pack his bags for the Australia A series in England.

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

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Posted by Meety on (April 26, 2013, 10:36 GMT)

@simonsays on (April 24, 2013, 1:40 GMT) - not so sure County is stronger than Shield. They play MCCU games at the start of the year where the MCCU teams are barely 1st grade standard in an Oz capital city (counted as FC). Then I think there is a vast gulf between Div 1 & Div 2. Also - Rogers & DHussey have tended to carve up over there, but not so in the Shield. Currently journeymen like Hogan & Magoffin have been well & truely amongst the wickets too. I think County is an essential finishing school for young Ozzy cricketers & you do get a lot of variety in the type of player that you'd face, but there are some gross mismatches too.

Posted by   on (April 25, 2013, 1:33 GMT)

Does anybody remember Pat Cunmmins? Still injured? Whats the story? He should be going to England if fit!

Posted by simonsays on (April 24, 2013, 1:40 GMT)

Can't say I have seen this Sam Robson, but why don't we pay more attention to county cricket here (and by 'we' I mean C.A)? Clearly it is a stronger competition than the current Sheffield Shield, and in English conditions - with benefits for both S.A tours and home matches given the penchant for seaming and swinging pitches. Chris Rogers I am well versed with and have been a fan for a very long time. He reminds me of some past great players like Lehmann and Hayden who racked up the first class runs, but this time without being rewarded with a real shot.

Good points guys. Will be keen to see if Invers wakes up to the fact he's jailed by ideology. Break free mate. For the benefit of Australian Cricket!!!

Posted by   on (April 24, 2013, 0:48 GMT)

@saplinglittle

Johnson has simply been outclassed by the next batch of young pacemen. Mitch is a very good ODI and T20 player but is horribly inconsistent in test matches. He averages 26 at home (with his best ground being the WACA where he averages 20) and 35 away. I hope he only plays at the WACA from here on, failing that I hope he only plays at home, and failing that he will more than likely be taken to pieces by England and South Africa over the next year.

Posted by Meety on (April 23, 2013, 22:12 GMT)

@Peter Warrington - he just hit his 1st County ton last week - & is averaging about 38-39 - which makes him better than Marsh IMO! I think his selection is about as likely as Katich! I was just puffing! @Chris_P on (April 23, 2013, 20:54 GMT) - re: Robson - I think he is close to qualifying for England, but who knows - the right word in the ear.... I went cold on Paine, & I have confidence that Wade will improve & I don't think he is as bad as some say. I remember Rod Irony Marsh wasn't the best when he started off & Wade has about as many stumpings as him already! He has gone backwards in the last year. I know what you mean about deed poll! I'd like to throw Cosgrove into the equation as a player who (despite his shape), is invisible to selectors! On another thread - I named TWENTY players who had better ACTUAL claims to a top 4 batting position than S Marsh - I included Copeland, Cutting & Krezja! Sad but TRUE!

Posted by Jonathan_E on (April 23, 2013, 22:09 GMT)

Out of all Australia's fast bowling options, why no mention of Doug "The Rug" Bollinger, who has the best Test average of all of them but hasn't played for two years? He is playing other cricket, therefore it's not injury that rules him out...

Posted by Chris_P on (April 23, 2013, 21:56 GMT)

@ saplinglittle Mitch Johnson? You're kidding, right?

Posted by Chris_P on (April 23, 2013, 20:54 GMT)

@Meety, a good point but I read somewhere where Robson is tossing his hat in the England ring & has committed to try to get into the English squad. Rogers & O'Keefe should change their names by deed poll to Marsh so selectors know they are about. Paine should be a bolter (in my books he should be the first keeper picked) but sadly, won't be selected.

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Brydon CoverdaleClose
Brydon Coverdale Assistant Editor Possibly the only person to win a headline-writing award for a title with the word "heifers" in it, Brydon decided agricultural journalism wasn't for him when he took up his position with ESPNcricinfo in Melbourne. His cricketing career peaked with an unbeaten 85 in the seconds for a small team in rural Victoria on a day when they could not scrounge up 11 players and Brydon, tragically, ran out of partners to help him reach his century. He is also a compulsive TV game-show contestant and has appeared on half a dozen shows in Australia.
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