What's up for grabs in Ashes selection battle?

Kurtis Patterson soaks up the moment of his first Test century Getty Images

Australia A went through the one-day leg of their tour of England unbeaten, but now things get really interesting with the red ball coming into focus and places in the Ashes squad to play for. They face Sussex and England Lions over the next couple of weeks before the selection showdown between two Australia teams in Southampton after which the squad will be confirmed. Here's what's up for grabs


There are two elements to this area: who is the first-choice to partner David Warner and whether Australia want to include a third opener in the squad or rely on Usman Khawaja to be back-up if needed. If there's only space for one then it's a three-way race between Marcus Harris, Joe Burns and Cameron Bancroft. Harris is leading the way after his promising performances against India and a prolific domestic season. Burns' chronic fatigue syndrome has set him back but he scored 180 last time out against Sri Lanka while Bancroft, who will continue playing for Durham, has made a timely return to the runs including a compelling duel with James Anderson in the latest round of County Championship matches. The selectors have previously talked about Matt Renshaw as well, but he scored just 118 runs in six innings for Kent earlier in the county season.

Locked in David Warner
In the mix Marcus Harris, Cameron Bancroft, Joe Burns

Middle order

Kurtis Patterson should have a head start here after his maiden Test hundred against Sri Lanka. The decision around the other names could come down to how many positions the player needs to cover. Peter Handscomb, who has been called into the World Cup squad, the prolifically in-form Matthew Wade, and one-day gloveman Alex Carey could be back-up to Tim Paine; Marnus Labuschagne is an incumbent Test player and has churned out runs for Glamorgan, plus can provide some handy overs, while there may, again, been the debate about a seam-bowling allrounder. Then there's the Glenn Maxwell question. Does he have a Test future?

Locked in Usman Khawaja, Steven Smith, Travis Head, Tim Paine
In the mix Kurtis Patterson, Marnus Labuschagne, Mitchell Marsh, Marcus Stoinis, Peter Handscomb, Will Pucovski, Matthew Wade, Alex Carey, Glenn Maxwell

Pace bowlers

Who will join the big three now that Josh Hazlewood is fit again? It seems certain that James Pattinson will and be earmarked to provide a cutting edge at key times in the series. Five Tests will be too much for him and, perhaps, a number of the fast men so the reserves will be vital. Four years ago Australia made the mistake of not playing Peter Siddle before it was too late, but has his time now passed? Jackson Bird can make the Duke ball talk and can bowl long spells. The selectors would have loved to include Jhye Richardson but he is still recovering from the shoulder injury sustained in March that ruled him out of the World Cup and, as it stands, there are no plans for him to join the A squad which would appear to leave him an unlikely option. Chadd Sayers is also in the UK playing for Gloucestershire having replaced Dan Worrall, who has been ruled out with a back injury.

Locked in Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, James Pattinson
In the mix Peter Siddle, Chris Tremain, Jackson Bird, Michael Neser, Chadd Sayers


Being the second spinner in the squad behind Nathan Lyon would likely be a drinks-carrying role and the selectors could gamble on not picking cover although that risks the morning-of-the-game injury scenario. Jon Holland, the Victoria left-arm spinner, is with the A squad and played against Pakistan in the UAE last year. It's a worthwhile debate to have whether Holland or Steve O'Keefe is the next-best first-class spinner in Australia, but it seems like Holland or no one.

Locked in Nathan Lyon
In the mix Jon Holland