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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
April 23, 2013
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 hereFeeds: Brydon Coverdale
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