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Spencer Johnson on Ashes radar after being named in Australia A squad

Johnson named in 14-man squad to play two four-day games in New Zealand in April with Dukes balls but some Ashes contenders were not selected due to England county commitments

Alex Malcolm
Alex Malcolm
Spencer Johnson has started his Sheffield Shield career in spectacular fashion  •  Getty Images

Spencer Johnson has started his Sheffield Shield career in spectacular fashion  •  Getty Images

South Australia left-arm quick Spencer Johnson has vaulted onto Australia's Ashes radar after being named in a 14-man Australia A squad to tour New Zealand in April alongside a mix of current Test squad members and long-term Test hopefuls with the mid-year England tour in mind.
Peter Handscomb, who is currently in Australia's Test XI in India, as well as India squad members Matt Renshaw and Mitchell Swepson, have been named but there were some notable absentees. Australia's selectors opted to allow some recent Australia A and Test representatives to go to England to play in the County Championship as part of their Ashes bids rather than be pulled out of county deals to play two four-day games in Lincoln with Dukes balls in the first two weeks of April.
Johnson, 26, has burst onto the selectors' radar since starring in his maiden BBL season for Brisbane Heat. He has since made his Sheffield Shield debut for South Australia and taken bags of 6 for 87 and 7 for 47 in his first two first-class games. Young Victoria seamer Mitchell Perry has also been rewarded for his outstanding form having taken 19 wickets in his last three Shield games.
Johnson and Perry are part of a bevy of seam bowlers in the A squad including Wes Agar, Xavier Bartlett, and Joel Paris while Swepson is the only spinner selected having not played a Test on the India tour. Leading Shield wicket-takers Michael Neser and Mark Steketee have not been selected for Australia A as both have extensive experience playing in England already.
The same thinking applies to leading Shield runscorer Cameron Bancroft and fringe Test opener Marcus Harris who both played in the 2019 Ashes series and remain in the selectors' Ashes thinking with discussions to be had over what Australia's best opening combination could be in England.
Bancroft is in career-best form having scored four Shield centuries this season, and six in the last 12 months, as well as plundered runs in limited-overs cricket for WA and Perth Scorchers. But he has already played 34 first-class matches in England over five separate seasons there. Harris has also scored two Shield hundreds this season and is set to head back to Gloucestershire at the start of April having scored seven first-class centuries in England.
Another West Australia opener Sam Whiteman, who was player of the match in last year's Shield final, has also not been selected as he has signed to play the full county season with Northamptonshire.
Tasmania left-hander Tim Ward is set to open for Australia A in New Zealand alongside Renshaw with South Australia's Henry Hunt not selected despite being an Australia A regular in recent years and scoring a century on the tour of Sri Lanka last year. WA allrounder Aaron Hardie has been named having toured with Australia A to Sri Lanka last year.
The selectors have also taken a long-term view with the batting group with 18-year-old West Australian Teague Wyllie, 20-year-old Victoria left-hander Campbell Kellaway and 24-year-old South Australia batter Nathan McSweeney selected for the tour to learn from alongside the experience of Handscomb and Renshaw.
Veteran Queensland wicketkeeper Jimmy Peirson has been rewarded for his outstanding form at Shield level and for Australia A on last year's tour of Sri Lanka having been named as the squad's sole wicketkeeper. Josh Inglis is touring with Australia's ODI squad to India just prior the A series in New Zealand but is still highly regarded as a Test prospect behind incumbent Australia wicketkeeper Alex Carey.
Chair of selectors George Bailey noted it was an opportunity to expose a younger group to different conditions.
"We are committed to the continued expansion of the Australia A program and these games are specifically designed to expose these players to conditions they may not experience in Australia," Bailey siad.
"With an Ashes this winter and a tour of New Zealand early next year, this is a great opportunity for this group to perform in similar environments to those countries.
"Having Pete Handsomb, Matt Renshaw, Mitch Swepson and Jimmy Peirson will add experience as senior players who can impart their knowledge of different conditions."
The Australia A squad will be coached by current Australia assistant Andre Borovec. Former Sri Lanka Test batter Thilan Sameraweera will also tour as the batting consultant with Scott Prestwidge looking after the bowling group having been part of the coaching staff with Australia's women's team during their recent World Cup triumph in South Africa.
The tour of New Zealand will also be reciprocated with Australia hosting New Zealand A for two four-day games and three 50-over matches to be played in Australia's northern states in September this year.
Australia A squad to tour New Zealand: Wes Agar, Xavier Bartlett, Aaron Hardie, Peter Handscomb, Spencer Johnson, Campbell Kellaway, Nathan McSweeney, Joel Paris, Mitch Perry, Jimmy Peirson, Matthew Renshaw, Mitchell Swepson, Tim Ward, Teague Wyllie

Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo