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Ghosts of 2019: Warner's Ashes fate remains uncertain

He appears set to feature in the WTC final against India but a poor record in England raises questions

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
It remains unclear whether David Warner will be able to chart his own end in Test cricket or if the selectors will make the decision for him over the next few months.
He appears locked in to line up in the World Test Championship final against India at The Oval in early June, but how much he features after that, including the Ashes, is less certain.
There was no surprise that Warner was on CA's central contract list on Thursday, but national selector George Bailey referenced how that covered all formats - Warner will remain a key figure in the ODI World Cup this year and most likely the 2024 T20 World Cup which could be his international swansong.
"We're three formats across all of those contracts. Trying to fit that in is first and foremost, the job," Bailey said. "But I think Dave, like any player is, is at the mercy of selection.
"The Ashes is a huge series. And we'll be looking to pick our best team. We're going to have to have our best team playing incredibly well too, to challenge England over there the way they're playing."
Bailey endorsed comments from head coach Andrew McDonald at the end of the India tour which stopped short of cementing Warner in for the Ashes.
"The point Andrew was making is that it's a different team, different way of playing," Bailey said of the WTC final. "So I support Andrew's comments on that around David."

Has Warner's double century bought him time?

Although Warner scored a brilliant double century against South Africa just four Tests ago, it is an outlier in his form over the last three years where he averages 29.48. The spectre of the 2019 Ashes, where he averaged 9.50, also hangs over him.
He did not make an impression in three innings on the recent tour of India before being subbed out of the second Test with concussion then leaving the trip with a fractured elbow. Warner was bullish on his future when he returned home, although did acknowledge that things could be taken out of his hands. He has started the IPL in promising form for Delhi Capitals.
"I've always said I'm playing to 2024; if the selectors feel that I'm not worthy of my spot, then so be it, and I can push on to the white-ball stuff," he said in February.
Last month, Ricky Ponting floated the notion that the WTC final could be a selection playoff for Warner when it comes to his Ashes hopes and also suggested he may have been better off retiring after his home Test at the SCG following the Melbourne double century.
Another intriguing element to how Warner's Test career pans out is the way in which Australia's Ashes squad will be selected. The tour is effectively being split into two blocks of three matches - the first including the WTC final for which a trimmed group of 15 players will need to be named in late May - with the selectors then reassessing what is required after the second Ashes Test at Lord's.
"We'll have more information on how the team's going, the results of the first couple of Ashes Tests, what the brand of cricket looks like and an opportunity to review any changes that will need to be made," Bailey said.

Marcus Harris back in pole position

Whether Warner's Test career finishes in England or he makes it to the next Australia season, there will be an opening vacancy sooner rather than later, and another perhaps not too long after that depending on how long Usman Khawaja's golden late-career surge continues.
The central contract list has put Marcus Harris in pole position to assume one of those roles when he was preferred to Matt Renshaw. Harris averages 25.29 across 14 Tests and, like Warner, had huge problems in England during the 2019 Ashes although has worked hard to develop his game since then.
He was unfortunate to lose his place during the 2021-22 Ashes, one match after battling tough conditions at the MCG for 76, when Khawaja had to be accommodated.
Renshaw can count himself a touch unlucky on this occasion given how his last few months have panned out. He was in terrific first-class form before the BBL break and earned a Test recall at the SCG, but through a combination of factors had very limited opportunity of time in the middle after that, something he referenced after his century for Australia A in Lincoln.
"It feels really strange saying four months was four [first-class] bats, but that's the way cricket can be," he said.
Cameron Bancroft, the runaway leading run-scorer in the Sheffield Shield this season, is the other batter frequently talked about. With continued strong returns there is every chance players from outside the contract list will come into consideration.
"I agree with [WA coach] Adam Voges, he said post the final that he thinks Cam Bancroft is batting as well as he's ever seen," Bailey said. "Think we'd agree with that as a panel as well, so really excited by the form that he's in and really glad he's over in England playing.
"Matt [Renshaw] was putting a really compelling case at the top of the order as well early on in the year for Queensland then by virtue of being away in India didn't get much of an opportunity in the back half of the year.
"Not being rude to Usman or Dave, but there's no doubt those two are probably closer to the end than start of their careers so we are going to need some depth and needing all three of those guys performing really well for us. Hopefully they make our decisions incredibly challenging over next little while."

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo