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How Wade became too good for Australia to ignore

Matthew Wade has churned out the runs at state and Australia A level and has been rewarded with a place in the Ashes squad

Alex Malcolm
Matthew Wade celebrates a century, England Lions v Australia XI, Canterbury, July 14, 2019

Matthew Wade celebrates a century  •  Getty Images

Matthew Wade's selection in Australia's Ashes squad is the culmination of an extraordinary run of form to get himself back into the international set-up. His recall became a distinct possibility after he was called into the World Cup squad as a replacement for the injured Usman Khawaja. Here's a recap of how he scored too many runs to be ignored
2016-17: Century, (brief) captaincy, injury, rain
Wade was Australia's incumbent wicketkeeper-batsman in both Test and ODI cricket and he seemed entrenched in the 50-over format following an unbeaten century against Pakistan in January 2017. He was elevated to the captaincy for the 2016-17 one-day tour of New Zealand, but a back injury forced him out of the trip. In the Champions Trophy, where Australia's campaign was hit by bad weather, he only got to the crease once.
2017-18: The slump, dropped but sign of revival
Following lean Test and ODI tours to India in March and September he lost his place to Tim Paine, who had come back from the verge of retirement, in both the Test and 50-over formats, while Alex Carey took over the T20 job. Wade had a lean white-ball summer for Tasmania and Hobart Hurricanes but finished the domestic season in sensational Sheffield Shield form making three centuries late in the season including one in the losing Shield final.
2018-19: Barnstorming summer
Wade was not even considered for Australia's tours of England, Zimbabwe and the UAE in 2018 which took place in the aftermath of the ball-tampering scandal. Paine captained the ODI team in England but was replaced by Carey in both white-ball teams thereafter. Wade went away and worked on his batting with Tasmania batting coach Jeff Vaughan and came out and plundered runs in all three forms the following summer.
Across the season he made 1800 runs in total. He started with a century in the domestic 50-over competition against Victoria and never stopped. He made 571 Sheffield Shield runs at 63.44 prior to the BBL break, including another high-quality century against Victoria's title-winning attack. He also plundered 592 BBL runs opening the batting for the Hurricanes, including six half-centuries at a strike-rate of 146.89. But despite clearly being the best batsman in Australian domestic cricket, Wade was overlooked for the revamped Test squad against Sri Lanka. Chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns said that Wade was batting too low for Tasmania to be considered while coach Justin Langer viewed him as a wicketkeeping option only.
Wade rebuked both arguments publicly saying it did not make a lot of sense. He was named Australia's domestic player of the year in early February and finished the season batting at No. 4 for Tasmania. He joined Marcus Harris as the second player to notch 1000 runs in the Shield season, a feat that had not been accomplished by anyone since 2014-15.
2019: Carnage for Australia A and the World Cup call
Wade was called up to a strong Australia A squad to tour England after spending the off season contemplating giving up the gloves permanently in Shield cricket to boost his chances of returning to Test cricket as a batsman. He played the first two 50-over matches of the Australia A tour as a batsman only and scored a pair of jaw-dropping centuries against Northamptonshire and Derbyshire. He made 355 runs in four matches at an outrageous strike-rate of 182.05. Khawaja's untimely hamstring injury provided an opportunity for Wade to finally return to the Australian squad, nearly two years on from his last appearance.
He wasn't selected for the World Cup semi-final, but he returned to the Australia A squad and promptly peeled off yet another century, this time against England Lions. He was struck on the elbow in the second innings, a blow that briefly threatened to derail his Ashes hopes, but there was no major damage. Alex Carey's phenomenal World Cup form also muddied the waters in terms of Wade's potential Ashes selection as either a back-up wicketkeeper or specialist batsman. He played as a specialist batsman in Australia's trial game in Southampton and though he missed out in both innings on a difficult batting surface his form overall was just too good to ignore.

Alex Malcolm is a freelance writer based in Melbourne