Young openers earn reward while second chance looms for Renshaw and Maddinson
They may not force their way in this season against England but opportunity could come next year
Australia's 15-player Ashes squad did not include any new faces or unexpected call-ups, but in the additional group who will make up the A side to face England Lions there was a glimpse at the selectors' thinking over who could be next in line for the Test side with the bat. Here's a look at the four names pushing the incumbents.
Henry HuntFirst class record: Matches 20; Runs 1455; Average 39.32; Hundreds 5
The South Australia opener has made a big impression over the last two seasons to vault himself into national consideration at the age of 24. He scored his maiden century in his fourth first-class match in 2019 and this season he has made two hundreds, including a superb 134 against Tasmania in bowler-dominated conditions out of a total of 220. It matches the two he made last summer when he was the standout performer in another poor season for South Australia and the four centuries have come in his last 13 first-class innings.
"I think Henry's form over the last couple of weeks has been fantastic, but in many respects it's backed up what we've been seeing from him," national selector George Bailey said. "He's well organised, his game's in really good order, he's got a lot of fight in the way he goes about it, he's determined and he's a gun fielder.
Bryce StreetFirst class record: Matches 20; Runs 1111; Average 37.03; Hundreds 4
The left hander has made a name for himself at the top of Queensland's order with his stickability at the crease but this season he has also worked on expanding his stroke range as witness during his century against Tasmania which included the first sixes of his first-class career. Three of his four hundreds have come from more than 300 deliveries while the other took 281. He also stood up to New South Wales' Test-strength attack in last season's Sheffield Shield final with 46 off 203 deliveries which allowed Marnus Labuschagne to take charge. In recent weeks his form has tailed a little - a top score of 23 in his last five innings - but Street's qualities remain sought-after in this era.
"For a young guy, Streety is bloody difficult to dismiss and that's a great trait as an opening batsman," Bailey said. "And the flow-on benefits of how hard it is to get him out is that his teammates are often the beneficiaries of his hard work, so we love the determination, we love the grit he brings."
Matt RenshawFirst class record: Matches 73; Runs 4475; Average 36.98; Hundreds 13
Test record: Matches 11; Runs 636; Average 33.47; Hundreds 1
Renshaw made a terrific start to his Test career including a big century against Pakistan at the SCG in 2017, but has not played since being hastily called into the Johannesburg Test in early 2018 following the fallout from the ball-tampering scandal. He was in line to play against Pakistan in the UAE but suffered a concussion. A difficult couple of seasons followed and he was dropped from the Queensland side then took a break from the game. He has returned and reinvented himself into a middle-order batter with considerable success averaging 55.92 since the start of last season. The selectors have an eye on his skill against spin with the subcontinent tours scheduled for next year.
"I think he's worked his way really nicely into the start of this season, he looks really at home in that number five role and he's an excellent player of spin," Bailey said.
However, speaking this week, former captain Steve Waugh said he thought Renshaw should return as an opening batter. "I don't know why he is batting in the lower order because he did a great job for Australia opening He's got a good technique but for some reason he is not the flavour of the day. But I thought he made an amazing Test debut under lights in Adelaide in difficult conditions. He scored slowly but survived. He hasn't got the credits he deserves while playing. I wouldn't rule him out."
Nic MaddinsonFirst class record: Matches 97; Runs 6245; Average 40.03; Hundreds 14
Test record: Matches 3; Runs 27; Average 6.75
Maddinson's career has been rejuvenated by his move to Victoria where he has averaged 63.41 to put himself firmly in the frame for a Test recall having struggled during his first opportunity in 2016 (he made his debut in the same match as Renshaw). He was the closest of the Australia A group of batters to earning a place in the main squad. Chris Rogers, the Victoria coach, has spoken of the maturity Maddinson has brought to his game on and off the field, something further emphasised by his recent promotion to captain of Melbourne Renegades in the BBL. His innings of 87 against New South Wales earlier this season came in for significant acclaim in a match where few other batters could score as freely and he followed that with a century at the MCG. He has been troubled by the short ball during his career but has worked on that aspect of his game.
"It's one of those things, you get to the second half of your career and you start to probably look at things differently," Rogers said this week. "You think more about your game, how you're structuring your innings, all those kind of things. You probably balance your personal life out a bit as well. He just seems really calm, that's the thing that stands out for me. From the innings I've seen this year he's been completely calm from ball one, and he's looked like a senior player, an old pro, and that doesn't come easily."
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo