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Renshaw's chance to push Ashes claims, eyes also on Hardie in New Zealand

Australia A will face New Zealand A in two four-day matches over the next couple of weeks

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
31-Mar-2023
Aaron Hardie helped steady Western Australia's innings, Western Australia vs Victoria, Sheffield Shield, Final, WACA, March 24, 2023

Aaron Hardie is probably the closest Australia have to cover for Cameron Green  •  Getty Images

Alongside those appearing at the IPL and preparing for spells in county cricket, there is a group of Australian players across the Tasman looking to make an impression on the national selectors.
The Australia A squad that faces their New Zealand counterparts over two four-day games in Lincoln - using the Dukes ball to replicate Ashes conditions in the UK - is a combination of players close or recently in the Test team, some with a realistic chance of pushing for a place in the near future, a few reasonably experienced domestic cricketers and those at the younger end of their careers.
It is not what an Australia A squad would look like if everyone was available - anyone with a county deal was not considered because they will already be playing in UK conditions - but Matt Renshaw and Mitchell Swepson are included from those recently in India. Peter Handscomb was in the original group but withdrew after getting his deal with Leicestershire.
It will be an important couple of weeks for Renshaw who is viewed as a serious candidate to open again for Australia in the long term when a vacancy arises. However, India was a difficult tour for him where he missed out twice in the first Test in the middle order, having been preferred to Travis Head, then fell cheaply again in Delhi after being called in as David Warner's concussion sub.
He is likely competing with Handscomb, Cameron Bancroft and Marcus Harris for a spare batting spot in the Ashes. One thing in Renshaw's favour is his versatility of being able to cover any position in the top six.
Swepson, meanwhile, faces an interesting time in his career having been overlooked for the three Tests in India where he was available (he missed the Delhi Test to fly home for the birth of his child). With Australia's next subcontinent Test tour not until visiting Sri Lanka in early 2025, it is difficult to see where Swepson's chance to add to his four caps will come.
Outside Renshaw and Swepson, the only other member of the squad previously capped by Australia is pace bowler Wes Agar who played two ODIs on the 2021 tour of West Indies when a number of first-choice players were not available.
The name closest to breaking through to international level is Western Australia allrounder Aaron Hardie. He made an important 45 in last week's Sheffield Shield final, and claimed four wickets, but his overall batting returns for the season with an average of 29.07 were probably a little below expectation.
Hardie was touted as a possible replacement for Cameron Green when he was injured during the Australian season and is the closest like-for-like available, although Mitchell Marsh could yet come back into the frame if he is able to bowl substantially after his ankle surgery. Hardie and Nathan McSweeney will share the captaincy in New Zealand.
With an eye on the Ashes, the selectors will need to consider how to provide wicketkeeping cover for Alex Carey. They could use Handscomb as was the case in India, but if they wanted a full-time keeper as back-up, Queensland's Jimmy Peirson has a strong case to be considered although Josh Inglis likely remains in pole position.
Over the last three seasons, Peirson has made 1337 Shield runs at 37.13 with five centuries (Inglis has averaged 51.56 in his 14 matches for WA in the same period) and he also impressed on the Australia A tour of Sri Lanka last year.
However, the most intriguing name in the squad is left-arm quick Spencer Johnson whose remarkable rise continues after a season that brought BBL and Shield success for Brisbane Heat and South Australia respectively, including six and seven-wicket hauls for the latter.
With Joel Paris, the WA quick, having withdrawn through injury, Johnson is now the one left-arm fast bowler in the squad and while it remains unlikely he will get an immediate international call-up, he could well be back-up to Mitchell Starc across formats.
Elsewhere in the squad, there is a collection of top-order batters in the 18-25 age group with an eye on the future. The most exciting of them is 18-year Teague Wyllie, another from the WA production line, who made a maiden Shield century this season and was unbeaten in the chase to secure the title.
Mitch Perry, a talented allrounder from Victoria, Xavier Bartlett and Jordan Buckingham (who replaced Parris) are pace bowlers who should enjoy the chance to operate with the Dukes ball.
New Zealand's resources are also stretched due to the ongoing series against Sri Lanka, but the side features a number of players with international experience, including Doug Bracewell and Scott Kuggeleijn who have played Tests this season and left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel. They will be captained by Tom Bruce who has 17 T20I caps.
New Zealand A squad: Tom Bruce (capt), Adithya Ashok, Doug Bracewell, Henry Cooper, Jacob Duffy (game 1 only), Dean Foxcroft, Cam Fletcher, Mitch Hay, Scott Kuggeleijn (game 2 only), Cole McConchie, Robbie O'Donnell, Will O'Rourke, Ajaz Patel, Brett Randell, Sean Solia
Australia A squad: Wes Agar, Xavier Bartlett, Jordan Buckingham, Aaron Hardie, Caleb Jewell, Spencer Johnson, Campbell Kellaway, Nathan McSweeney, Mitch Perry, Jimmy Peirson, Matthew Renshaw, Mitchell Swepson, Tim Ward, Teague Wyllie

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo