Promising youngsters Cameron Green and Will Pucovski have served up numbers that demanded their inclusion in Australia’s extended Test squad to face India this summer.
In spite of the global pandemic and the uncertainly that comes with it, the clouds appear to be lifting in Australian cricket with the recent news that supporters will be allowed back into the stadiums for the upcoming summer.
After a succession of limited overs fixtures which begin in Canberra and Sydney later this month, the highly anticipated Test series with India will commence with a day/night match starting in Adelaide on December 17th.
Heading into the home summer there are currently just two names on the lips of all Australian cricket supporters. And no, it isn’t the obvious household names of a David Warner, Steve Smith or Pat Cummins (who have all recently been starring for their respective IPL franchises) it’s a pair of youngsters who have been tearing up the early rounds of the Sheffield Shield in Adelaide.
Nothing gets fans more excited than electrifying up-and-coming talent standing tall and demanding selection for their national side and its looks like Australian cricket is set to unearth a couple of gems in the coming months.
Western AustralianCameron Green, a 21-year-old allrounder who bats in the middle order and bowls quick right-arm outswingers, and Victorian Will Pucovski, 22, a classy top order batsman who has a thirst for big hundreds.
The duo have done enough to impress coach Justin Langer and his fellow selectors Trevor Hohns and George Bailey who named them in an extended Test squad for the four-match series with India. Now both have a solid chance of receiving a Baggy Green by the summer’s end.
Despite both men making their first-class debut within weeks of each other as far back as February 2017, they have been restricted to just 22 and 19 appearances respectively.
Pucovski, a standout performer for both Victoria and Australia at various youth levels, has experienced a combination of ongoing concussion and mental health issues which have limited his action to just 22 matches for Victoria.
In fact, he’s suffered a staggering eight separate concussions in just six years – the first of which occurred during a high school game of Australian rules football and confined him to six months away from education.
After being selected for a CA XI against the touring English in late 2017, he announced himself to the Shield with 188 against Queensland in just his second match before scoring his first double hundred the following season with 243 against Western Australia despite struggling with personal issues at the time.
Just months later he was close to receiving full Australian honours. A Test debut against Sri Lanka loomed large, however, Kurtis Patterson pipped him to the post after back-to-back hundreds in a pre-series tour match.
Strong off the pads and happy to flay any width outside of the off-stump, the right-hander has been in scintillating form during two matches for his state this summer.
Having previously made a name for himself in the middle order, only recently has he taken to opening the batting and the results have been astounding. In three innings against South Australia and Western Australia he’s produced scores of 255no, 202 and 38.
In doing so he became the first batsman to record successive double hundreds in the Shield since Dene Hills in 1997/98 and what’s more remarkable is they were his first professional innings since early February.
Green, on the other hand, has been described as the best young Australian batsman since Ricky Ponting emerged in the mid-nineties by former Australian captain, selector and talent manager Greg Chappell.
However, like Pucovski, Green certainly hasn’t had it all his own way. And similar to many young fast bowlers he’s suffered his fair of injuries – noticeably stress fractures of the back – which kept him away from the game for the whole of the 2017/18 summer and have limited his bowling workload ever since.
However, he’s now averaging a touch under 50 batting at No.4 for Western Australia, and (when fully fit) can open the bowling with speeds of 85mph + all delivered at a towering height of two metres. His average with the ball is an impressive 22.53 with his 30 wickets including 5-24 as a 17-year-old debutant against current selector George Bailey’s Tasmanian side and 6-30 also against Tasmania fifteen months later.
Despite featuring predominantly as a bowler in his early Shield days, his batting talent has been evident from a young age. No more so than when he scored a match-winning first-grade knock of 116 for Perth-based Subiaco-Floreat before his seventeenth birthday.
Batting at number eight – having been temporarily advised to give up bowling – he scored his first Shield against Queensland a year ago when he backed up an unbeaten first-innings 87 with a match-saving 121no in the second dig. Further hundreds arrived against Tasmania (158no) and South Australia (126) before he scored a magnificent 197 off 438 balls against a strong New South Wales attack that included Test spinner Nathan Lyon last month.
To back up his big hundred he’s also produced a pair of 56’s against South Australia and Victoria whilst also impressing in his limited return with the ball despite only two wickets.
His all-round package could see him become a world-class middle order batsman who can also contribute as a major force with the ball, something that predecessors Shane Watson and Mitchell Marsh could never fully achieve.
Can Tim Paine shoehorn either man into the Test side?
Pucovski has been muted as a possible replacement for Joe Burns at the top of the order. But despite his successes against South Australia and Western Australia, he has only opened the batting in three first-class innings.
He will get another opportunity to stake his claim to open alongside David Warner in the first Test – with both himself and Burns pencilled in to play two warmup matches against the Indian tourists in Sydney early next month.
The smarter money could still be that incumbent Burns – nine years Pucovski’s senior – is given every chance to again prove his worth despite just 57 runs in five innings for Queensland this summer.
Green is seen as more of a long-term all-round option in the middle order, likely at either five or six. But with current mainstays Travis Head and Matthew Wade both scoring freely during the opening rounds of the Shield, it’s more likely that he’ll be introduced into the ODI side first and will have to bide his time around the red-ball bubble whilst soaking up more valuable experience.
Fallible batting line-ups set to be at the mercy of formidable pace units as English conditions will likely ensure a series for the bowlers.
And so, the Ashes have arrived again. With cricket very much in the public spotlight once more, the sport’s greatest rivalry is set to resume in Birmingham on Thursday morning – just a mere 18 days after England lifted their first World Cup on home soil.
Because of that home World Cup, the 2019 version of the Ashes is very much cricket in the fast lane with five Tests – spread across four cities – arriving in just six weeks.
And with such a short turnaround between matches, this series could well hinge on how each side handles their squad rotation and fast bowling depth.
With the English wickets expected to offer plenty of swing and seam, coupled with the obvious batting frailties on either side, it looms as a low scoring series set to be dominated by the ball.
Thankfully for each side they’re stacked in that department. Between them England and Australia have both opted to include six front line seamers in their respective squads.
England will again rely on the evergreen pair of James Anderson and Stuart Broad as chief destroyers alongside the dependable Chris Woakes, the all-round package of Sam Curran and the new speed merchants Jofra Archer and Ollie Stone.
While Australia have the veteran UK specialist Peter Siddle, the World Cup’s leading wicket taker Mitchell Starc, the ever-reliable Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins, and are rounded off with the hustling seam of Michael Neser and the trump card James Pattinson.
After almost five years of frustration, Australia finally has the ‘Big Four’ of Cummins, Hazlewood, Pattinson and Starc all fit and available for selection. This, once distant, dream dates back to late 2014 when Hazlewood was the last of the quartet to make his Test debut.
A combination of injuries, both minor and serious, have meant that, until now, the four have never simultaneously been available. However, with Hazlewood having recovered from the back injury that’s ruled him out since January and Pattinson also seemingly over his own back troubles, they suddenly have an abundance of riches.
Now the visitors must stick to the fundamentals of succeeding in English climes and pick accordingly to the varying conditions. Their 2019 squad make-up suggests they have learnt plenty of lessons from their flawed 2015 Ashes campaign.
After a successful 2013-14 campaign, in which a fiery Mitchell Johnson blow England away, Australia entered English shores in 2015 intent on following a similar pathway.
However, although a pre-tour career ending injury to Ryan Harris scuppered their plans somewhat, an attack of Johnson, Starc and an off-colour Hazlewood was quickly found out across the series despite Johnson’s match winning contribution at Lords.
The 2015 surfaces of Edgbaston and Trent Bridge, in particular, were crying out for the wiles of Siddle, however he was only turned to once the series was already decided in England’s favour.
Siddle, now entering his twilight at 34, is again included in the touring party. And after a successful recent spell in county cricket with Essex, where he’s reaped 34 Championship wickets at 20.08, he’s likely to play a larger role from the get-go this time around.
With Pattinson and Cummins already etched into the starting XI for Edgbaston, Siddle’s in a three-way battle with Hazlewood and Starc for the remaining seamers role.
For England there were similar dilemmas regarding the third seamers role. With Anderson and Broad already certain to begin the series, Woakes has edged out Archer for the final spot.
With his strong Edgbaston connections and figures of 6-17 against Ireland last week, Woakes was the obvious candidate for the role, however, Archer’s inclusion is likely to come later in the series.
Despite a fine start to his international career, Archer has been carrying a slight side injury since his World Cup final exploits and is also short of red-ball practice, having not played a first-class match for ten months.
In the batting, Australia must decide whether Marcus Harris or Cameron Bancroft will open the batting alongside David Warner. Despite Harris being the incumbent, it’s likely that Bancroft will get the nod after his steady runscoring feats with Durham and match-winning contribution of 93 not out in the Australian inter-squad match last week.
England captain Joe Root has already confirmed that he will swap places with Joe Denly in the order and bat at number three. After pressure from parts of the English media and also his coach Trevor Bayliss, Root has decided to make the jump to add more experience to a top three also containing Surrey pair Rory Burns and Jason Roy – who have a combined eight Tests between them.
So, where does this leave us?
England are perhaps slight favourites at this stage with home conditions taken into account and the simple fact that not many current Australian batsmen are very equipped at playing the moving ball.
However, England’s own frailties in the batting department will concern them too. While they pride themselves on batting all the way down to number 10, their top order is a serious worry. After getting bundled out for 85 on a green Lords wicket by 37-year-old county stalwart Tim Murtagh – there are plenty of issues to iron out.
Burns is averaging just 22.28 after 14 Test innings and Denly isn’t fairing much better with 24.16 across six innings. It’s beginning to appear that a lot will rest on Roy’s ability to transform his limited overs form into the Test arena as England continue their long quest to replace Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook at the top of the order.
Keep an eye on:
Now 29, Pattinson’s only previous Ashes experience was as far back as six years ago when he played in the opening two Tests of the 2013 Ashes series before breaking down with yet another unfortunate injury setback.
After career-threatening back surgery in late 2017, Pattinson has finally returned to his fearsome best this summer during a county spell at Nottinghamshire and the recent Australia A fixtures.
While its doubtful he will play in all five matches, Pattinson’s ability to swing and seam the ball at high speed whilst also offering control will make him a tough proportion to face for the English batsmen.
While England have a number of talented batsmen in their ranks, only Root can claim to be truly world class.
After stating for much of the past year that he prefers to bat at number four, Root has finally budged and moved up one.
The number three spot has been problematic for England ever since Jonathan Trott departed from the international scene in 2015 and despite Root averaging 40.47 batting there instead of the 48.00 he averages at four, it’s a decision made with the best interests of the team at heart.
How Root handles the responsibility of captaincy with the added burden of batting at first drop will likely define the series.
A strong and athletically gifted right-arm fast bowler capable of touching the 90mph barrier, Henry Brookes rose to promise for Warwickshire last summer before a stress-fracture to his back put his fledgling career on hold in mid-July.
By that point, the then 18-year-old had already received a maiden callup to train with the England Lions setup despite having appeared in only six first-class fixtures. Since making his Championship debut in late 2017, he’s captured 21 wickets at 21.38 and looked set to make further strides before his 2018 ending injury.
Also, a capable lower-order batsman – he’s registered two fifties in just eight first-class innings – Brookes has made a huge impression on former Warwickshire sport director, and current England director of cricket Ashley Giles in his so-far nascent career.
The Solihull-born teenager has been with the Midlands county since he was just nine-years-old and recently reaffirmed his commitment to the cause by signing a new contract in December, keeping him at Edgbaston until after the 2021 season.
A former regular with the England U19’s before breaking into the Warwickshire senior setup, he also impressed in both limited-overs formats last summer and looks set for a long and fruitful career for both county and country.
What 2019 holds in store?
Brookes has recently returned to full training and has participated in warm-up matches during Warwickshire’s pre-season tour of Abu Dhabi.
It’s likely that his workload will be managed early season to aid his still-developing body back to full fitness after suffering such a serious back injury.
With former England assistant coach Paul Farbrace replacing Giles as sport director with an emphasis on developing more youth at Edgbaston, Brookes can be expected to make more strides in 2019, especially with Chris Woakes likely to be unavailable for most of the summer and fellow club stalwarts Keith Barker and Chris Wright having recently left for pastures new.
New bowling reinforcements have arrived in the form of Gloucestershire pair Craig Miles and Liam Norwood, while Ollie Stone should shortly return from his own injury issues to bolster the newly promoted side.
But while Division One opponents and pitches will be a step up for Brookes, there’s no reason to believe he won’t continue his rapid rise and work his way back into England Lions consideration during the summer.
Ben Charlesworth (18) – Gloucestershire
A prodigiously talented 18-year-old seam-bowling allrounder, Ben Charlesworth provided a shining light at the end of a disappointing 2018 summer for Gloucestershire.
Taking time out from his A-Level studies at St Edwards School in Oxford, Charlesworth made his first-class bow in August aged just 17. Despite scoring just 1 and 5 and failing to take a wicket on his debut against Warwickshire, it wasn’t long before he began to turn heads in Bristol.
In just his second fixture against Leicestershire, he took the winning wicket with his first delivery of the match and took that confidence into his next match against Middlesex, where he scored a composed first-innings 77 not out and followed it up by taking 3-25 from 13 tight overs with the ball.
In scoring his maiden Championship fifty he became the youngest Gloucestershire player to do so in over 70 years. He soon followed it up with another, when he scored 72 against Glamorgan in Cardiff in another match that his side managed to win.
Although predominantly seen as a bowler first and a batsman second (He batted at seven and eight throughout his six Championship matches for Gloucestershire) It’s his batting that has impressed the most during his blossoming young career.
Following a strong finish to the County season, Charlesworth took his form into the winter with the England U19 side during their tour of Bangladesh.
After making 115 out of a total of 203 in the third YODI he scored 188 runs at 47.00 across the two Youth Tests including first-innings scores of 99 and 63 whilst opening the batting.
What 2019 holds in store?
Having enjoyed a fruitful winter with the England U19’s and also signing a new three-year professional contract with Gloucestershire in October, the future looks bright for Charlesworth.
With Miles and Norwood moving to Warwickshire and fellow seam-bowling allrounder Kieran Noema-Barnett having returned to New Zealand, the first team opportunities are likely to remain for Charlesworth as the summer progresses.
In the meantime, he’ll continue to balance his time between the Gloucestershire First and Second XI’s and his school commitments as shown recently when he skipped the County’s pre-season tour of La Manga to concentrate on his studies.
Jamie Smith (18) – Surrey
A modern-day wicketkeeper batsman with all the strokes, Jamie Smith recently enjoyed a memorable first-class debut for Surrey during their County Champion Match at the ICC Academy in Dubai.
After impressing behind the stumps with a stumping, a catch and a run out, Smith then hit 127 in his maiden first-class knock. Batting at number six, he put on 266 with Ollie Pope for the fifth wicket.
It certainly didn’t go unnoticed that Smith forged such a hefty partnership with Pope – a man he one day hopes to emulate. A fellow wicketkeeper-batsman, Pope made his first-class debut for Surrey in 2017, aged 19 and was representing England at Test cricket just a year later.
Like Pope, Smith is an innovative and attacking batsman capable of playing a variety of diverse innings across the different formats.
Born in Epsom and educated at nearby Whitgift School, he has featured for Surrey since under 10 level and made his T20 debut against fierce rival Middlesex at a packed Lords last summer.
He went onto play a further match against Kent in July before enjoyed success with the England U19 during their winter tour of Bangladesh.
After a pair of low scores in the first Youth Test he relinquished the gloves for the second and scored 90 and 104 batting at number three.
What 2019 holds in store?
With recently jettisoned England wicketkeeper Ben Foakes due to return as the Championship season nears, Smith is certain to again relinquish the gloves and fight for a batting spot in the middle order.
Despite his debut hundred he’s certainly not guaranteed a place in the first XI and it’s likely he’ll be fighting with fellow youngsters Will Jacks and Ryan Patel and new signing Jordan Clark for the final batting spot at number six/seven as the defending County champions retain great strength in depth going into 2019.
However, with injuries and international callups expected throughout the summer, Smith will likely see some first team action across the three formats as well as time representing the Surrey Second XI and club side Sutton CC of the Surrey Premier League.
Liam Trevaskis (19) – Durham
Spinning allrounder Liam Trevaskis shot to fame in a T20 match against Lancashire last August when he took three wickets and defended six runs off the final over to bowl Durham to victory.
Seen largely as a batsman who also bowls some slow left-arm spinners, he’d hitherto taken only one wicket in his prior seven T20 matches leading in, so when he took 4-16 on that Manchester evening it was quite the unexpected coup for Durham.
Carlisle-born and raised in nearby Penrith, the 19-year-old made his T20 and first-class debuts in 2017. However, he’s yet to add to his solitary Championship appearance earned against Worcestershire in September 2017 – despite being named in a several squads throughout 2018.
His spin bowling progressed last summer after having worked with South African legspinner Imran Tahir – who was over representing the Durham Jets in the Vitality Blast and he now has genuine hopes of playing as an allrounder across all formats.
Trevaskis also experienced England U19 honours during the 2017 summer; where he opened the batting in a YODI series against India with reasonable success.
What 2019 holds in store?
With new management at Durham, (Marcus North as Director of Cricket and James Franklin as head coach) Trevaskis could see more first-team action.
He was left out during the recent MCC Universities match against Durham MCCU in favour of the more experienced Ryan Pringle, but he’s likely to rival Pringle for the spinning-allrounder role in the Championship side.
Opportunities for a debut in the Royal London one-day cup are also likely to be forthcoming with Durham kicking off their tournament against Northamptonshire on April 17th.
Perhaps pigeonholed as more of a limited-overs player at this stage of his career, Trevaskis will no doubt look for more openings in the longer format as the summer progresses. In the meantime, he’ll continue to represent the county’s Second XI and South Northumberland CC in the North East Premier League.
Ethan Bamber (20) – Middlesex
A right-arm fast bowler who burst onto the County scene last summer, Ethan Barber impressed with 28 wickets at 20.25 for Middlesex spread across his initial six first-class appearances.
The former England U19 standout made his first-class debut against Northants in August and was a mainstay through to the conclusion of the season, taking a career best of 4-81 against Gloucestershire.
The son of two actors (David Bamber and Julia Swift) and a current Theology student at the University of Exeter, Bamber isn’t your usual run-of-the-mill cricketer.
The Westminster-born youngster, who turned 20 in December, was a late starter to the game after his brother, seven years his senior, had taught him in the family garden and he only began taking it more seriously when he first represented Middlesex at U15 level.
Just a few years later he was playing at the U19 World Cup in New Zealand where he finished England’s joint leading wicket taker with eight wickets in four matches at 13.50 apiece.
What 2019 holds in store?
Middlesex are once again stacked in the fast bowling department with onetime England pair Steven Finn and Toby Roland-Jones both fit again after long-term injuries and the evergreen Tim Murtagh still going strong at 37, that’s before mentioning the likes of James Harris, Tom Helm and Martin Andersson who all contributed last summer.
With such bowling options, Middlesex are firm favourites to gain promotion back to Division One. However, Bamber looks certain to be relegated back to the Second XI while he continues his studies.
Although he impressed in the most part during his maiden summer, he also lacked consistency – as to be expected for any young bowler, but his development will certainly be aided by the presence of new bowling coach Dimitri Mascarenhas.
Jack Haynes (18) – Worcestershire
A highly-rated young batsman who Worcestershire have great hopes for to eventually replace another prize batting asset in Joe Clarke who joined Nottinghamshire in the offseason.
The right-handed Haynes – whose father Gavin made 100 first-class appearances for Worcestershire in the 1990’s – made his Worcestershire List-A debut against a touring West Indian A side last June, scoring 33 in a narrow defeat.
Shortly after his debut he signed his first professional contract to stay at New Road until after the 2020 season and has continued to be closely mentored by Academy coach Elliot Wilson.
After making his Second XI debut in 2017, he was given further opportunities to develop in the seconds last summer where he scored a match-winning 131 against Notts in the Second Eleven Trophy.
A former captain of the England U16 side, he made his international U19 debut against South Africa last July playing two Youth Tests and two YODI’s with a top score of 74.
He was then named in the Young Lions training camp during the winter – where he briefly worked with former England batsman Ian Bell at the ECB high performance centre in Loughborough – but didn’t make the 15-man squad that went onto tour Bangladesh.
What 2019 holds in store?
Haynes looks set to complete his studies with Malvern College in Worcester before then joining the club on a fulltime basis later in the summer.
Back in Division Two of the Championship, Worcestershire have re-shuffled the coaching setup with Alex Gidman now in charge of the first-team and Kevin Sharp returning to the seconds.
Sharp, who gave Haynes his Second XI debut in 2017, is again likely to have a positive impact on his fledgling career this summer with the 18-year-old primed for plenty more playing time.
Although Clarke has left and Moeen Ali will be absent for long stretches, it’s unlikely that Haynes will immediately oust experienced campaigners like Callum Ferguson, Rikki Wessels and Brett D’Oliveira from the side. He is though, expected to rival fellow rookies Ollie Westbury, Josh Dell and Alex Milton for some playing time across the three formats.
And with a three-day tour match against Australia pencilled in for early August, expect Haynes to feature. He’s also set to continue playing for Ombersley CC in the Birmingham and District Premier Cricket League throughout the summer.
Adam Finch (18) – Worcestershire
Like Haynes, right-arm fast bowler Adam Finch is another great example of the excellent work done by the Worcestershire Academy in developing their own talent in recent years.
The promising 18-year-old only turned to cricket at 14 when he was asked to make up the numbers in a soft-ball match, just three years later he was representing his country in the 2018 U19 World Cup in New Zealand.
Finch has often been praised by the County’s hierarchy for his fantastic work ethic and willingness to learn as well as the vast improvements he’s made to his tall physique.
Under the tutelage of bowling coach and former Pears seamer Alan Richardson, Finch has recently followed fellow young quicks Ed Barnard, Josh Tongue, Pat Brown, George Scrimshaw and Dillon Pennington into the Worcestershire setup.
He made his England U19 debut against India in 2017 after impressing in his first few outings for the Worcestershire Second XI – where he took 5-19 against Yorkshire seconds.
A regular for the England U19 side since his 2017 debut, he impressed with match figures of 8-69 against his South African counterparts in a Youth Test last summer and also represented the team during their winter tour of Bangladesh.
The next step of his development will be to break into the Worcestershire first XI.
What 2019 holds in store?
Worcestershire have recently signed former South African seamer Wayne Parnell to a Kolpak contract to replace the retiring Steve Magoffin – pushing Finch further down the ranks behind Barnard, Tongue, Brown and the currently injured pair Pennington and captain Joe Leech who are both due to return to bowling soon.
Finch and 21-year-old Scrimshaw – who missed all of 2018 with a stress-fracture – will likely be pushing for a reserve roll alongside Charlie Morris who also remains on the fringes of the first-team squad.
Finch remains very highly thought of at New Road and a first-team debut looks imminent after he was involved in many of the County’s pre-season fixtures.
Tom Lammonby (18) – Somerset & Devon
Allrounder Tom Lammonby, a left-handed batsman and left-arm fast bowler, has yet to make his Somerset first-team debut, but big things are expected in the West Country.
Despite not yet having represented Somerset, Lammonby, who doesn’t turn 19 until June, has plenty of other cricketing experience to fall back on.
Last summer he scored three consecutive hundreds for Devon CCC in the Minor Counties League – becoming the first player to achieve the feat for Devon, while he also spent time representing the University of Exeter alongside former England U19 teammate Ethan Bamber of Middlesex.
He certainly didn’t have 2018 all his own way though, as a couple of untimely injuries cost him dear on the international front. Firstly, he suffered a broken hand in the nets which ruled him out of England’s U19 World Cup squad in the winter before he injured his heel when due to captain the U19’s against South Africa in July. He did, however return to skipper the side against Bangladesh recently with mixed fortunes.
Born and raised in Devon, he joined the Somerset Academy in 2015 before signing a two-year professional contract in June 2018 and scoring his first Second XI hundred against The Unicorns.
What 2019 holds in store?
Somerset are not averse to giving youth a chance when they believe the timing is right. Recent examples include Dom Bess, Eddie Byrom, George Bartlett and Tom Banton who have all debuted for the County in the past few years.
Lammonby will have to initially bide his time for first-team opportunities in 2019 as fellow youngsters Byrom, Bartlett and Banton and experienced campaigners like Steven Davies, James Hildreth and Tom Abell and Lewis Gregory all remain ahead of him on the depth chart.
He did, however, recently spent time with the first-team squad during their pre-season tour of Abu Dhabi before taking his place back in the Second XI for their friendly game against Gloucestershire. So, a First XI callup might not be out of the question this summer.
In the meanwhile, he will keep looking to represent the England U19 side along with his Second XI commitments and fixtures for Devon CCC and club side Exeter CC of the Devon Cricket League.
Jack Plom (19) – Essex
A right-arm opening bowler of genuine pace, Jack Plom could well become the next bright young thing to graduate from the Essex academy.
The 19-year-old joined the academy at 15 after current England bowling coach Chris Silverwood, then Essex assistant coach, identified him at a local U15 tournament.
Now he’s looking to join the likes of Aaron Beard, Sam Cook and Dan Lawrence who have all impressed at Chelmsford after making their first-team bows in recent summers.
The Basildon-born Plom made his first-class debut against Cambridge MCCU in early 2018 but did not bat or bowl in a weather affected match, however, he’ll be looking for further opportunities in 2019.
After taking 18 wickets in seven Second Eleven Championship fixtures last summer with a best of 6-33, he signed his first professional contract with Essex in October – committing his future to the County Ground until after the 2020 season.
He also impressed while representing the England U19’s against South Africa last summer where he topped the bowling charts in the Youth Test series with 12 wickets at 14.16.
What 2019 holds in store?
Plom looks set for another summer in and around Anthony McGrath’s first-team setup where he’ll relish the opportunity to work with former South African paceman Andre Nel who has joined as assistant and bowling coach.
He was recently involved in the club’s pre-season tour of Abu Dhabi where he played for a Combined XI against Somerset and took three wickets from his 10 overs.
Although, with such depth in the bowling department, he’s got plenty of hard work ahead to immediately dislodge the likes of Jamie Porter, Peter Siddle, Matt Coles, Matt Quinn, Beard, Cook and Paul Walter from the starting Championship XI.
However, with international callups and the inevitable injuries that plague fast bowlers, there are likely to be opportunities for Plom as the summer rides on, especially in the one-day formats.
George Balderson (18) – Lancashire
It wasn’t so long ago that fans of Lancashire and England were salivating over the talents of a young opening batsman by the name of Haseeb Hameed.
Hameed burst onto the scene three years ago and was representing England shortly after, but the weight of expectation and an enormous dip in form saw him average just 9.71 last summer.
So perhaps a more cautionary approach should be taken when championing the skills of another young opener in 18-year-old George Balderson.
The Stockport-born left-hander, who lists Alastair Cook as his cricketing idol, made excellent strides in the academy and Second XI setups last summer where he helped the County win the Second XI T20 competition despite missing several weeks with a hand injury.
After impressing when captaining the North in the ECB Super 4s, he made his England U19 debut against South Africa at Scarborough last July before being selected for the
Young Lions programme over the winter where he went onto play five times against Bangladesh U19s with a top score of 65.
Also, a useful right-arm fast bowler, he signed a two-year professional contract to stay at Old Trafford in December.
What 2019 holds in store?
Balderson was recently involved during Lancashire’s pre-season trip to Dubai where he took 3-37 against a UAE Men’s 1 side and he will officially join Lancashire fulltime at the conclusion of his A-Levels in June.
In the meantime, he’ll look to continue impressing head coach Glen Chapple, assistant Mark Chilton and the Second XI coaches as he looks to plot a pathway into the first-team setup.
That will be no mean feat though as Hameed, Joe Burns, Keaton Jennings, Alex Davies and Rob Jones are all vying for the top three spots and fellow youngster Josh Bohannon impressed in the allrounder’s role at the end of last season.
Balderson will continue to represent club side Hyde CC in the Cheshire County League where he hit 800 runs last summer.
When observing Australia’s disastrous ODI form of 2018, it seems hard to believe they entered 2019 as a team hoping to defend the World Cup crown they secured in Melbourne four years ago.
Such was the disarray in their ODI side, that they’d won only two of the 13 matches they played in 2018. But even more concerning was the brand of cricket they were producing. Their 1990’s version of the ODI format looked seriously dated and off the pace when compared to the new heights being set by the likes of England and India.
To make matters worse they even seemed behind more balanced sides like South Africa, New Zealand and the West Indies who were all packing more of a punch than Australia. After dominating the one-day scene for much of the 90’s and 2000’s, they have spent the past few years unsure of their ODI identity. This has been summed up by a series of jumbled moves and poor selections designed to find a solution to their prolonged form slump.
Those such moves included the recall of 34-year-old seamer Peter Siddle in January, despite him having not played limited-overs cricket for Australia for almost nine years. His recall was based, like many, on his form in the Big Bash – where he helped Adelaide Strikers win the 2017/18 version of the tournament.
With the domestic one-day tournament shoved into a short window at the beginning of the Australian summer its often the Big Bash that provides Australia with one-day players as it runs parallel to the home ODI’s that traditionally occur throughout January and early February.
Other dubious examples of pigeonholing Big Bash bowling stars into the ODI setup were epitomized by the inclusions of the Adelaide Strikers’ giant quick Billy Stanlake and the death-specialist Andrew Tye of the Perth Scorchers. Both were given brief spells in the side before being displaced alongside the likes of Michael Neser and Ashton Agar.
Likewise, with the batting missing the power of David Warner, the selectors took a punt on a pair of recent Big Bash stars hoping they’d be able to sustain strong opening support for captain Aaron Finch.
D’arcy Short and Chris Lynn were both trialled (for four ODI’s each) as top order hitters expected to exploit the early powerplay overs. When both failed to take their T20 form into the international arena, Australia quickly returned to the more traditional approaches of Usman Khawaja and Peter Handscomb, as they sort a different means of scoring the runs required to topple the power-hitting nations that now await in ODI cricket.
However, after many had begun writing off their chances of retaining the World Cup at Lords on July 14th, the Australians showed signs of rejuvenation during the recent limited overs victories in India.
First Pat Cummins and then Glenn Maxwell led them to a 2-0 win in the T20I’s, before they came from 0-2 down to win 3-2 in the ODI series – the first time they have ever achieved such a feat. It was also their first ODI series victory in seven attempts dating back to January 2017.
Suddenly a once unbalanced side, shorn of the banned duo Steve Smith and Warner and the injured fast bowlers Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood, are beginning to regroup and peak with the World Cup just around the corner.
Led by the batting of Khawaja, and then finished off by the superb bowling of Cummins and Adam Zampa, Finch’s men overcame a fancied home side to win their first ODI series in India since November 2009.
After entering India with a number of question marks over key areas of the side, they now find themselves having to make some tough selection decisions when taking into account the returns of Smith, Warner, Starc and Hazlewood and the fine form shown by Khawaja, Handscomb, Marcus Stoinis, Ashton Turner, Jhye Richardson and Nathan Lyon.
And they only have a five-match series against Pakistan in the UAE remaining before they have to announce their preliminary 15-man World Cup squad to the ICC on April 23rd. They will then have a World Cup training camp in Brisbane in early May prior to finalizing the 15-man squad by May 22nd.
With the Pakistan series beginning in Sharjah on Friday; Who’s entering the run-in certain of a place in the World Cup 15 and who’s looking over their shoulder hoping for a final chance to impress?
Aaron Finch – Despite wrestling with his own batting form recently, Finch has shown great calm and composure as skipper of the side. While his form remains a slight concern – he registered two ducks against India and has just one fifty (93 in Ranchi) in eleven innings since taking over the ODI captaincy in November – he’s a fine player who will no doubt recapture the form that’s seen him hit 11 centuries in 100 ODI innings.
Glenn Maxwell – A vital clog in the Australian limited overs side and someone with undeniable X-factor, Maxwell began the year unsure of his place or role in the side after being shunted down the order to bat as a pure finisher at number 7. But after a recent match-winning T20I hundred in India, he’s impressed further up the ODI order with vital hard-hitting cameos and useful spells with the ball. Add in his terrific fielding and leadership qualities he’s now a sure bet for the WC 15.
David Warner – A key fixture in the side before his 12-month ban, Warner is due to be briefly reintegrated back into the set-up at the beginning of the UAE tour before regaining his fitness with Hyderabad Sunrisers in the IPL. Although he won’t play for Australia before the WC squad announcement on April 23rd, he’s a certain pick for the tournament.
Usman Khawaja – The real winner from the India series. Khawaja – opening the batting – scored his maiden ODI hundred (104) in Ranchi and followed it up with 91 in the record run-chase in Mohali, before rounding out the series with another match winning hundred in Delhi. Although likely to drop down to number three to facilitate the return of Warner, he finally looks a permanent fixture in the ODI side – six years after debuting in the format.
Pat Cummins – One of first names on the team sheet, Cummins continues to go from strength to strength in all forms of cricket, no more so than when he recently topped the wickets tally in the India series with 14 victims at 15.71.
Mitchell Starc – Currently out with a pectoral muscle injury, Starc missed the tour of India and will also miss the Pakistan series after initially being hopeful of recovering in time. But given his recent history and pedigree in ODI cricket, he’s almost guaranteed to return to the XI once he’s back to full fitness.
Adam Zampa – Now the undisputed number one spinner in Australia’s ODI side, Zampa has endured a stop start few years in the national side but has now finally nailed down his spot with his legspin trailing only Cummins in India with 11 wickets as he both attacked and defended when required.
The very likely
Peter Handscomb – Scored a maiden ODI hundred (117) in the successful fourth ODI run-chase, before scoring an equally important 52 in the decider. Freshly dropped from the Test side, Handscomb was a leftfield pick when recalled to the ODI side to play India in January after a one-and-a-half-year hiatus from the limited over set-up. An excellent player of spin and a useful backup wicketkeeping option, he looks likely to battle with Smith for a place in the XI.
Alex Carey – After establishing himself as the number one limited-overs gloveman ahead of Tim Paine last year, Carey has generally batted down the order at six and seven but also opened, with little success, against India in January. A fine glovesman and good late innings finisher, he’s likely to begin the WC behind the stumps, although a spell of poor form could see Handscomb take over the gloves.
Marcus Stoinis – After starting the India series in good touch, Stoinis suffered a broken thumb, leading the way for fellow Western Australian Turner to come into the side and perform heroics. Capable of hard hitting towards the end of the innings but has been criticized for heaping pressure on the run-rate by playing out too many dot balls. Can also perform a solid role as the side’s fifth bowling option as seen when he recently dismissed Virat Kohli. Has taken over the allrounder role fulltime from previous incumbent Mitchell Marsh.
Steve Smith – Like Warner, Smith has been nursing an elbow injury in recent times, putting his planned comeback in doubt. After a brief reintegration back into the national setup, his next involvement in top level cricket is due to be the IPL with Rajasthan Royals where he will need to prove his fitness and form before the squad announcement. There is a thought that he could be left alone until the Ashes, given his importance to the Test side.
Josh Hazlewood – Still recovering from a stress-fracture of the back he suffered against India in January, Hazlewood is on a race against time to put himself firmly back in the WC reckoning. Having taken 72 wickets in 44 matches and established himself as a key figure in the ODI setup, he’s likely to be given every chance to fully recover from the injury and earn a place in the WC 15 even though he won’t play any cricket before May. His inclusion in the squad is likely to be determined by his ability to play in the warm-up matches.
Jhye Richardson – A fine tour of India in which he took eight wickets in three matches has likely elevated Richardson ahead of the likes of Coulter-Nile and Behrendorff in the pecking order. Still only 22 and fairly raw, he looks to have a bright future across formats for Australia having also made his Test debut in January deputising for the injured Hazlewood. If the latter fails to recover from his aforementioned injury then Richardson could also find himself in the WC starting XI.
Ashton Turner – Brought into the squad for his abilities to hit a long ball and his excellent running between the wickets, Turner was drafted into the starting XI in India due to Stoinis’ misfortune and made the most of his chance scoring a magnificent unbeaten 43-ball 84 to grasp victory from the jaws of defeat in the four ODI. He will have the Pakistan series and then the IPL to prove he is worthy of a place in the WC 15. He can also bowl useful offspin and is excellent in the field.
Shaun Marsh – A big favourite of Justin Langer and a shining light during a poor 2018 for Australia, he’s scored four ODI hundreds in the past year against strong opposition (2 x England, South Africa and India) but his recent dry spell in India (scores of 16, 7 and 6) after he missed the series opener due to the birth of his second child, have tied in with similar players like Handscomb and Khawaja having timely success meaning Marsh’s spot suddenly looks vulnerable. Was left out for the series decider against India after Stoinis recovered from his thumb injury.
Nathan Lyon – Behind Zampa in the spinning ranks, Lyon is only likely to make the WC squad if Finch and the selectors decide they want to play two spinners during the tournament. He impressed bowling in tandem with Zampa in India where he offered his side much needed control during the middle overs.
Nathan Coulter-Nile – Played the first two India ODI’s before sitting out the remaining matches when Richardson came into the side. Capable of hitting a long ball down the order, his recent injury record could well count against him when Australia decide on their final 15.
Jason Behrendorff – Another injury-prone Western Australian quick, the left-armer originally came into the side after impressing in a handful of T20I matches and has let no one down without yet taking the hatful of wickets to fully cement his place in the WC 15. His left-arm angle and ability to swing the new ball are certainly in his favour but with Starc due to return soon, might he become redundant?
On the outside looking in
D’Arcy Short – A regular T20 performer, Short was recently called into the ODI squad to cover for Marsh who briefly went home on paternity leave. However, he failed to feature in any of the games and was already back playing in the Sheffield Shield before the tour finished.
Travis Head – A veteran of 42 ODI’s, Head was dropped in January after an underwhelming two-year spell in the side, where he scored one hundred and 10 fifties batting throughout the top and middle order. He remains unlikely to be re-visited before the WC.
Kane Richardson – The South Australian has played only 18 ODI’s in six years and is likely to remain on the outside unless a couple of the other fast bowlers are stricken down with injury. The leading wicket taker in this year’s Big Bash, he was called up for the India and Pakistan series when Starc was ruled out.
The Cape Town ball-tampering saga was the beginning of the end for a host of hugely significant figures in Australian cricket as the country endured its toughest year in living memory.
Australian cricket review 2018
It had all begun so well. The Australian cricket team started 2018 with an innings and 123-run victory over England to seal a 4-0 Ashes triumph.
There were smiles aplenty as the Sydney sun shone down brightly on Steve Smith and Darren Lehmann’s men after they’d made relatively light work of the old enemy. There was even time for a “classless” trophy presentation to follow – featuring a giant blue hand decorated in the Aussie flag and holding up four fingers next to the St George’s flag of England that featured a clenched fist to resemble the four-nil score line.
However, that was all a big masquerade by Cricket Australia. Behind the scenes the wider public were starting to grow tired of the way the Australian cricket team acted on and off the field. Whether it was the crude sledging or the ongoing arrogance of certain members of the team, tensions were starting to boil up.
There was talk of exhaustion in the camp as an unrelenting schedule that included a full Ashes series of five Tests, five ODIs and a T20I tri-series was then swiftly followed by a four-Test tour of South Africa. And it was beginning to take its toll on several high-profile members of the side – not least captain and vice-captain Smith and David Warner.
Smith citied potential burnout as his reasoning behind skipping part of the ODI series that proceeded the Ashes, while Warner was thrust into the captaincy for the T20I tri-series as both men continued to live their lives firmly inside the international “Cricket Bubble”.
Inside that “Cricket Bubble” the side had begun to develop a win-at-all-costs mentality as the demands of international cricket and a wider growing arrogance led to exaggerated aggression, and at times a sense of invincibility.
While no-one ever expected the Australians to cheat as blatantly as they did on that infamous Saturday afternoon at Newlands in late March, there were earlier warning signs that their conduct had started to spiral rapidly out of control. Not least, the continuing on and off field angst between the Australians and their hosts South Africa which had begun in Durban with an ugly staircase altercation between Warner and Quinton de Kock that set the tone for the poor behaviour that followed throughout the series.
However, things certainly hit the nadir during the third Test in Cape Town. Not only did Warner instruct Cameron Bancroft to use sandpaper to alter the condition of the ball, but then when Smith and Bancroft subsequently tried to cover up the tampering they also lied to the Australian public.
The backlash was severe. “Sandpapergate” spared no one. Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull felt the need to get involved and the incident made worldwide news. Smith and Warner were immediately stepped down from leadership duties while investigations commenced. They would later both be handed one-year suspensions from CA while Bancroft was handed nine months.
Coach Lehmann was spared the axe but resigned days later, while CEO James Sutherland quickly announced there was to be a review of the “culture and conduct” of Australia’s professional cricket teams.
Newly reinstated wicketkeeper Tim Paine was handed the permanent Test captaincy, with Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Marsh appointed his joint vice-captains. Meanwhile, long-time candidate Justin Langer replaced Lehmann as head coach. Langer’s first task was to preside over a 5-0 ODI series loss in England as Australia’s one-day side lived up to its ongoing mediocrity of recent years.
Without the batting prowess of Smith and Warner and, at times, a host of leading fast bowlers due to injury, Australia were being shown up as the ordinary side they’d now become. A T20I tri-series final was lost to Pakistan in Zimbabwe to continue a difficult beginning to the Langer-reign before a sense of pride was restored with a hard-earned Test draw against Pakistan in Dubai. Despite that draw the series was lost with a 373-run defeat in Abu Dhabi as familiar batting struggles were again very evident.
While the team were trying to win back the public with their new-found respectful behaviour, a host of changes were happening at the boardroom level. In June, James Sutherland announced that he was stepping down as CEO after seventeen years at the helm and he was replaced by former CA director Kevin Roberts.
Roberts was a long-time ally of CA chairman David Peever and it appeared the pair would continue working together when Peever was voted back in for a second term just days before the findings of the cultural review were made public to the state boards in late October. However, just one week into his three-year tenure Peever resigned after increasing pressure from New South Wales chairman John Knox.
Former captain Mark Taylor followed shortly after, resigning from his position on the board despite being many people’s choice to succeed Peever as chairman. That role eventually went to Earl Eddings who had originally taken up the role on a temporary basis following Peever’s swift exit.
Two more high-profile names followed Peever and Taylor out CA’s Jolimont headquarters on November 7th when Roberts used his new-found authority to fire both Pat Howard and Ben Amarfio. Howard, the Head of Team Performance, was due to leave after the 2019 Ashes but was shown the door early and replaced by former Australian cricketer Belinda Clark – who took the role on an interim basis.
Amarfio, meanwhile was the CA General Manager of Media and reportedly had to be escorted from the building by security after being made aware of his dismissal. He was replaced by Anthony Everard in a reshuffle of the CA media arm.
Much like the boardroom, things on the field continued to be rocky as the ODI side, now led by Aaron Finch, were beaten 2-1 at home to South Africa. They finished the year winning just two of their 13 matches and with only five months left to finetune for next year’s World Cup, their hopes of retaining the trophy they won in 2015 look particularly slim.
The Test side has also endured a tough year too. After beginning the year with back-to-back wins in Sydney and Durban they won just once thereafter. That win came in Perth during the ongoing series with India where Australia find now themselves unable to regain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy after the visitors secured wins in both Adelaide and Melbourne. They finish the year with three wins, one draw and six defeats.
Predictably, the side are currently missing the runs of Smith and Warner. Their current run of nine Tests with just a single century scored is the country’s worst drought in more than 100 years. Taking out the hundreds scored by Usman Khawaja, Shaun and Mitchell Marsh in Sydney in January, only Khawaja has been able to pass three figures since. Collectively, Australia’s batting in 2018 has averaged around 26 runs per dismissal – their lowest since 1978.
Without Smith and Warner, the Test side needed senior duo Khawaja and Shaun Marsh to step up but neither have done enough to ensure Australia regularly post competitive totals. Khawaja has certainly faired the better of the pair with 732 runs at 40.66 in 10 Tests while Marsh has struggled averaging just 25.89.
Pat Cummins has led the bowling with 44 wickets at 19.97, while Mitchell Starc (31 wickets at 33.35) and Hazlewood (26 wickets at 33.26) have endured slightly disappointing returns compared with previous years as Nathan Lyon again led the wickets column with 49 victims at 34.02.
Elsewhere, another farewell was announced in April as a new television deal was agreed with Seven and Fox Sports worth $1.182 billion – replacing Channel 9 who had shown all international cricket in Australia since Kerry Packer led a television sports revolution 40 years ago.
After a miserable few months in Australian cricket, Usman Khawaja – filling the opening void vacated by Bancroft and Warner – scored a masterful final day 141 to marshal his side towards safety in their first Test since that fateful South African series in March.
Faced with a gigantic run chase of 462 and 140 overs to bat out, Khawaja held out for 522 minutes across day’s four and five, putting on stands of 132 with Travis Head and 79 with Tim Paine as the visitors finished eight down when Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed finally offered his hand to opposite number Paine.
The innings (and subsequent draw) restored some much-needed pride in Australian cricket whilst also putting pay to the theory that Khawaja couldn’t bat against spin bowling in Asian conditions.
Low Point: Sandpapergate, Newlands
While it’s been a year of great lows in Australian cricket, nothing compares to incident in Cape Town when Warner, Smith and Bancroft decided that the only way of getting the ball to reverse swing was to scuff it with sandpaper.
What followed will tarnish the aforementioned trio for the rest of their careers. But at least some good did come out of the episode with the trio being forced to turn out for club sides Randwick Petersham, Sutherland and Willetton.
New Kid on the block: Billy Stanlake
Although the 24-year-old Queenslander, made his international debut almost two years ago, he really shot to promise as a white-ball specialist in 2018.
Standing at 204 cm’s tall, Stanlake made his international debut on the back of some impressive displays for BBL side Adelaide Strikers and has since continued a steady rise in both the T20I and ODI formats.
His pace and awkward bounce have regularly asked questions of opposite batsmen such as when he took figures of 4-8 and 3-21 against Pakistan during a T20I tri-series in Zimbabwe in July.
He also had some success in ODI cricket too, going for just 5.75 in a high scoring series against England which included 3-35 from his 10 overs at Old Trafford.
However, with Hazlewood, Starc, Cummins and Nathan Coulter-Nile all ahead of him in the ODI setup a place in Australia’s 15-man 2019 World Cup squad may be currently out of reach.
Frequent back issues have resulted in Stanlake going down the limited-overs route as he’s yet to add to his two first-class appearances both made for Queensland in 2014.
Fading Star: Shaun Marsh
Could Trevor Hohns and his selection panel finally be running out of patience with the 35-year-old batsman who has averaged just 25.89 this year? – Taking away his hundred in the new year’s Test that average drops to 18.66 in his previous nine Tests.
There are ongoing whispers that Marsh’s Test future could be over if he fails to make runs against India at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
A talented lefthander, Marsh has endured a stop-start Test career since debuting against Sri Lanka in 2011. Five of his six Test hundreds have been made in Australian victories, including two in last summer’s Ashes.
What 2019 holds:
After failing to regain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in the ongoing series with India, nothing less than an impressive showing against a weak Sri Lankan side in their two-Test series in late January, would be seen as a disaster.
The Sri Lanka series, which includes a maiden Test at Canberra’s Manuka Oval, follows a three-match ODI series against India which will begin Australia’s countdown to their World Cup defence.
India then return the favour by hosting Australia in a five-match ODI series in late February and early March before a potential yet-to-be-confirmed ODI series against Pakistan in the UAE that is expected to accommodate the return of Smith and Warner sometime after March 29th.
The World Cup preparation will then ramp up in May ahead of Australia’s opening match with Afghanistan on June 1st. Should the Aussies progress to the final (July 14th) then they’ll have just nine days rest before playing a pre-Ashes tour match against an Australian A side in Southampton.
The five-Test Ashes campaign, the first series in the new World Test Championship, then begins in Birmingham on August 1st, before rolling onto Lords, Leeds, Manchester and concluding at The Oval on September 12th.
They then round out the year with home series against Pakistan (2 Tests, 3 T20Is) and New Zealand (3 Tests, 3 ODIs).
Veteran batsman’s runscoring feats have become boom or bust throughout his seven-year Test career.
Not since Shane Watson last pulled on the green and gold jersey in March 2016 has there been a more divided figure in Australian cricket than Shaun Marsh.
Poor form and injuries have blighted Marsh’s career to the extent that he and younger brother Mitchell are now seen as figures of fun to certain sections of the Australian public for their perceived wealth of opportunities and lack of runs.
It’s been almost seven years since Marsh sr. first played a home Test series against India. Across six innings in that 2011/12 summer he scored just 17 runs and averaged 2.42. Eleven of those runs were scored in one knock.
For a number 11 those would be disappointing returns. But for a top order batsman they were outright disastrous and he subsequently paid the price by being axed from the side for more than two years.
Unfortunately for Marsh the aforementioned series wasn’t an anomaly either. His seven-year and 34-Test career has habitually fluctuated from one extreme to another. The big hundreds are regularly followed by a string of low scores and vice versa.
Since debuting in the hills of Kandy as a 28-year-old with nearly ten years of first-class experienced behind him, 40.98% of his Test innings have ended with single figure scores. That’s 25 out of 61 innings that have concluded before they’ve reached ten.
To reiterate the all or nothing nature of his batting, when he does go past ten his average balloons close to 60 – almost 25 runs more than his Test career average of 35.28. He has also logged ten ducks in 61 innings which is just one less than Allan Border recorded across his 265 innings in the Baggy Green.
While it’s inevitable that all top order batsmen – Marsh has batted all across the top six – will occasionally be dismissed cheaply throughout their careers, to fail to make double figures in over 40% of your innings shows a batsman who struggles to tough it out when confidence is down.
As a result, he’s been dropped from the side on numerous occasions, but has still managed to outlive the coaching spans of Tim Nielsen, Mickey Arthur and Darren Lehmann. Now he’s reunited with his former Western Australia coach and mentor Justin Langer who took over the top job in May.
The pair have worked together in Perth since late 2012 with Langer, himself a former international lefthander, often helping Marsh iron out technical deficiencies in his game. Having a close ally at the helm will no doubt help to prolong his future in the side.
At his best he’s got the dreamy cover drives, the powerful cut shots and the all-round elegant stroke play to revival the finest. But, and there’s certainly always a but with Shaun Marsh, to the contrary he can also be found scratching around like an old hen uncertain of where his next run will come from.
In a modern era of increasing technology and data analysis, it’s easy to spot a batsman’s weakness. And it’s certainly no secret that Marsh has got a tendency to drive away from his body early in his innings. For any international bowler worth their salt it’s not rocket science – target him early on with a fourth or fifth stump line and you’re in with a decent shout of having him caught behind.
If it wasn’t for his obvious talent and the relative lack of other Test-quality options, then his international career could well have turned out differently. His ability to score big and very timely match-winning hundreds has certainly given him a greater margin for error with the selectors.
But despite the large barren spells of drought, there have been the good times too. The times of feast (or in batting terms, “The Daddy Hundreds”). Its certain his career at the highest level wouldn’t have survived without them. And they have been vast and vital. All six of his Test hundreds have gone past the 125-run mark, while five of them have contributed to Australian victories.
Batting in Ricky Ponting’s recently vacated number three spot, his 141 on debut in Pallekele was a statement making knock coming just months after Ponting had handed over the captaincy in the aftermath of a home Ashes defeat. He later returned to Sri Lanka in 2016 to make a face-saving 130 alongside Steve Smith in Colombo in a series Australia would eventually lose 3-0.
After being sidelined for much of 2012 and 2013 due to his diminishing returns, he returned with a bang in early 2014 scoring a masterful 148 against South Africa in Centurion. He repelled an attack that featured Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel for 428 minutes to put Australia one-nil up in a series they would later win 2-1.
But in typical Marsh fashion he recorded a pair in his next match in Port Elizabeth and was dropped for the final match of the series having lasted just three balls in two innings.
The hundreds were sporadic thereafter – as they often were. Although a huge 182 was compiled against a weak West Indian attack at Hobart in late 2015 when Marsh put on 449 for the fourth wicket with Adam Voges.
He was immediately dropped for the fit-again Usman Khawaja for the next Test as other more reliable options were sort. Thereafter he returned only for one-off Tests against Sri Lanka and South Africa in 2016 before cementing his place again in India with fighting knocks of 66 in Bengaluru and a final day match-saving 197-ball 53 in Ranchi.
His solid tour of India was followed up by an excellent home Ashes campaign where he finally showed some much-needed consistency by following up a significant 126 not out in Adelaide with 156 in Sydney to finish the series behind only Smith in the batting charts with 445 runs at 74.16.
It seemed like a career-defining moment for Marsh who finally appeared to take ownership of the number five position. However, his form has since nosedived with series in South Africa and the UAE producing just 161 runs across 12 innings at 13.41. In the two Tests against Pakistan in October he averaged only 3.50 with a top score of seven.
Having failed to reach fifty since his hundred at the SCG his Test future appeared on the periphery. But strong support from Langer and an upturn in ODI and Sheffield Shield form has given him a life raft ahead of a huge home series with India.
Match-winning scores of 80 and 98 against Tasmania in late October were followed by 22 and 106 for the Australian ODI side against South Africa and an unbeaten 163 to help Western Australia chase down 313 against South Australia in Adelaide before he rounded out his preparation for the Border-Gavaskar Test series with 81 and 0 against New South Wales at the new Perth Stadium.
With key batsmen and former leaders Smith and David Warner still serving out their one-year ball-tampering suspensions, its left to Marsh and fellow lefthander Khawaja to step up and replace the huge void with leadership and runs.
When Marsh steps out to bat against India at the Adelaide Oval on Thursday morning he will be hoping to replicate the first-innings 126 he made against England there last summer and not the 3 and 0 he scored against India in January 2012.
How much longer the 35-year-old can hold onto his fragile Test career remains to be seen.
With another season of the County Championship set to begin on Friday, CaughtOutCricket profiles ten future prospects under the age of twenty to follow the teens of 2016 and 2017
Harry Brook (Age 19) – Yorkshire
Nineteen-year-old Harry Brook is yet another young batsman to fall off the highly regarded Yorkshire production line. A breakout 2017 has led to many suggesting the talented right-hander has all the tools to take his game to the next level.
Despite his tender age he’s already gained a wealth of experience in his nascent career. Be it breaking the Yorkshire Schools record for the most runs in a season while at Ilkey Grammar School in 2013, making his county bow last summer or recently captaining his country in the U19 World Cup in New Zealand – there’s a lot to admire about this youngster.
Brought up playing cricket at his local Burley-In-Whalfedale club alongside his father and uncle, Brook was soon breaking records and turning heads on his way to representing the various Yorkshire underage sides.
After registering a golden duck on first-class debut against the visiting Pakistani’s in 2016, a run of impressive second XI scores (127, 47no, 112 and 161) led to a much-anticipated Championship debut against Middlesex at Lords last summer. Batting at number three he showed great composure in making a first-innings 38 as wicket tumbled around him.
Although he managed only modest returns thereafter – He finished the season out of the side after just 82 runs at 13.66 spread across six innings – his unflustered approach at the crease drew many admirers in the Yorkshire set-up.
He carried on his progression by leading England at the U19 World Cup and topping the team batting averages with 239 runs at 119.50 including two fifties and one hundred. However, despite a fine personal tournament where he was dismissed just twice in five innings, he ended on a sour note when he was dropped for the final match after breaking a team rule.
What 2018 holds in store?
Despite a disappointing end to his U19 World Cup campaign, Brook has begun his 2018 season with Yorkshire in superb fashion. He kickstarted the club’s pre-season tour of South Africa off with a bang, making a magnificent 154 against a Nottinghamshire attack including Mark Footitt and Harry Gurney.
Having said that, he still faces stiff competition to regain his place in the side once the season commences in mid-April. With Indian rock Cheteshwar Pujara arriving for the beginning of the season to supplement the experienced guard of Adam Lyth, Alex Lees and Gary Ballance, it appears that Brook will be fighting it out with Jack Leaning and Tom Kohler-Cadmore for a batting spot.
Brook’s predicament becomes even more complicated when England stars Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow return for Yorkshire’s third Championship match.
It remains likely that he’ll again have to remain patient for his opportunity whilst continuing to score heavily for the Second XI and the Yorkshire Academy.
Matthew Potts (19) – Durham
Matty Potts’ emergence as a talented seam-bowling allrounder has coincided with another traumatic offseason in the northeast.
The Sunderland-born teen shone brightly in a handful of first team opportunities in 2017 and looks set to inherit more responsibility this summer after the club lost senior players Graham Onions, Paul Coughlin and Keaton Jennings to First Division counties and promising batsman Jack Burnham to a one-year drugs ban.
Nineteen-year-old Potts made his first-class debut against Kent last June where despite collecting only one wicket he was entrusted to bowl the final over with just one Kent wicket required. Although he failed to claim the final scalp he had impressed captain Paul Collingwood enough to earn further opportunities.
The wickets began to flow for Potts thereafter as he took ten wickets across matches against Glamorgan and Derbyshire before finishing the season off with a maiden Championship fifty against Derbyshire.
He was rewarded with a three-year professional contract to keep him at the club until after the 2020 season after finishing the year with 14 wickets at 33.21.
What 2018 holds in store?
With club stalwarts Onions and Paul Coughlin heading to pastures new in Lancashire and Nottinghamshire respectively, the door is certainly open for Potts to continue his development in a first team environment.
Veteran Australian Nathan Rimmington has arrived to reinforce the seam bowling options and will join the likes of Potts, James Weighell, Barry McCarthy and Brydon Carse as potential options to supplement first choice pair Chris Rushworth and Mark Wood (should international and IPL commitments allow).
After impressing in limited overs cricket with the England U19’s last summer Potts will also be looking to break into the Durham one-day and T20 sides this year with the Royal London Cup beginning in late May.
Hamidullah Qadri (17) – Derbyshire
Nicknamed “The Magician” offspinner Hamidullah Qadri burst onto the county scene last summer continuing a remarkable personal story that has seen him flee war-torn Afghanistan at the age of ten to become the youngest ever county player to represent Derbyshire at just sixteen.
His story added a significant chapter last June when, just two weeks after completing his GCSE exams, he put in a man-of-the-match performance on first-class debut to bowl Derbyshire to their first Championship victory in nearly two years.
After displaying impressive control in conceding just 16 runs from 15 first-innings overs he turned matchwinner in the second dig. Opening the bowling he returned figures of 26.3-8-60-5 as he tore through the Glamorgan lower order on a turning Cardiff wicket.
More success in Championship matches against Durham and Sussex further enhanced his growing potential as he finished his maiden season with 10 wickets at 28.80.
County cricket’s first millennium child had made an immediate impact and it wasn’t long before he was representing his adopted nation at U19 level. Although he was overlooked for the 2018 U19 World Cup he intends to commit his international future to England.
What 2018 holds in store?
After learning from Derbyshire’s experienced overseas spinners Jeevan Mendis and Imran Tahir last summer, Qadri looked set to continue his education under Mitchell Santner this summer.
Santner was due to arrive later in the summer to replace South African quick Duane Oliver however a severe knee injury to the Kiwi spinner has subsequently put pay to that deal.
While the club have recently confirmed they are seeking a replacement for Santner, they’re currently left with only two specialist tweakers in Qadri and legspinner Matt Critchley alongside the part time offerings of Wayne Madsen.
While it’s likely that Billy Godleman’s side will see the all-round skills of Critchley and Madsen as adequate spin options in early season conditions, Qadri’s time will come later in the summer when the pitches begin to take more turn.
In the meantime, the youngster will be left splitting his time between the Second XI Championship and Derbyshire Premier Cricket League side Alvaston and Boulton CC.
Amar Virdi (19) – Surrey
An offspinner of Indian-heritage, Amar Virdi broke into the Surrey four-day side last summer acting as a second spinner alongside Gareth Batty after the shock early-season retirement of former England allrounder Zafar Ansari.
Virdi impressed on his first-class debut against eventual Championship winners Essex when he bowled former England wicketkeeper James Foster as his maiden victim on his way to collecting first-innings returns of 3-82.
With Surrey regularly opting for a solitary spinner, Virdi had to wait before receiving further opportunities later in the summer with appearances against Hampshire and Middlesex sandwiched between two youth Tests against the Indian U19 side.
While he didn’t pick up a hatful of wickets in his three Championship performances (six wickets at 45.16) he caught the eye of the England selectors and was rewarded with a place on the England Lions winter tour of Australia.
He performed admirably in his one appearance Down Under. Bowling in tandem with fellow England spin aspirant Jack Leach he took 4-70 from 18 overs against a strong Queensland XI side.
What 2018 holds in store?
Despite being in his fortieth year and recently relinquishing the captaincy, veteran Batty has showed no signs of winding down just yet so its again likely that Virdi will be contrived to settle for a second spinners role with perhaps more first XI opportunities coming later in the summer.
Alongside left-armer Freddie van den Bergh, Virdi will offer quality backup for Batty whilst also continuing to learn his trade under the sound stewardship of Alec Stewart and Michael Di Vanuto.
He will also hope to gain further overs under his belt in the Second XI Championship and with Sunbury CC in the Surrey Premier Division.
Will Jacks (19) – Surrey
Another member of the recent Surrey youth-movement alongside Virdi, Ollie Pope, Sam Curran and Ryan Patel, aggressive allrounder Will Jacks hopes to become next in line to wow the crowds in South London.
A hard-hitting batsman, who holds Kevin Pietersen as his idol, Jacks has appeared in several first team squads without yet making his Surrey debut. However, the 2017 Academy player of the year is highly regarded by the club’s hierarchy and was rewarded with a two-year professional contract in October.
Despite not yet making his county first XI, Jacks has built up an impressive resume with the England U19 side. His 102 against India in a Youth Test last summer was a particularly assertive innings that included nine fours and six sixes.
He has also captained the side and acted as vice-captain to Harry Brook in the recently concluded U19 World Cup.
A more than handy offspinner, especially in the shorter formats, he topped the England bowling averages at the U19 World Cup with 7 wickets at 21.57 to go with his 194 runs at 38.60 which included a century against Canada.
What 2018 holds in store?
Although Jacks is yet to make his first XI bow, there’s hope that he’ll be involved with the Surrey one-day teams this summer.
His powerful batting and offspin bowling have him earmarked as a limited-overs specialist and he’s already been involved with the club’s T20 side in pre-season – making 5 against Lancashire in Dubai.
With injury ruling out overseas signing Mitchell Marsh and Jason Roy competing in the IPL, there could well be a Championship opportunity for Jacks at the season edges closer with Surrey yet to replace either man. With a top three of Rory Burns, Mark Stoneman and Scott Borthwick likely set in stone, Jacks is likely to be competing with Ryan Patel, Ollie Pope, Rikki Clarke for a spot in the middle order.
With Roy due to return after the IPL commences and Virat Kohli rumoured to be signing to play for the club in June, Jacks is likely to return to play in the various second XI competitions as well as representing club side Guildford CC.
Liam Banks (18) – Warwickshire
In what was a desperate overall season for Warwickshire, 18-year-old opener Liam Banks offered a sign of brighter times ahead.
With relegation inevitable towards the latter part of the season, Banks was one of two 18-year-olds (fast bowler Henry Brookes was the other) given a taste of first team action ahead of life in Division Two.
Banks made his first-class debut against Yorkshire at Headingley in September making 13 and 29 before rounding out the season with scores of 1 and 14 against Hampshire at Edgbaston.
Although he managed only four low scores, the Newcastle-under-Lyme-born man is held in high regard in Birmingham having joined the club’s Academy from Staffordshire at the age of 13. He was recently rewarded with a two-year contract extension after a series of impressive performances in the Second XI Championship.
A regular for Staffordshire in the Minor Counties League, Banks also excelled for the England U19 side in the recent World Cup. Splitting time between opening and batting in the middle order he made 207 runs at 51.75 including 120 against Canada and 74 against Bangladesh.
What 2018 holds in store?
After years of overreliance on the veteran batting presence of Ian Bell, Jonathan Trott, Rikki Clarke and Tim Ambrose, Warwickshire have finally injected some youthful exuberance into their batting with Dominic Sibley (22), Sam Hain (22), Matthew Lamb (21), Andrew Umeed (21) and Ed Pollock (22) joining Banks in the ranks.
Despite finishing last summer in possession of the openers position, it’s expected that Banks will be battling it out with Scotsman Umeed and former Yorkshire allrounder Will Rhodes for the chance to open with the established Sibley.
Rhodes started the recent MCCU match against Durham University and therefore looks likely to begin the Championship season ahead of Banks.
For now, Banks will return to Second XI duty whilst also representing West Bromwich Dartmouth in the Birmingham & District Premier League.
Pat Brown (19) – Worcestershire
Nineteen-year-old Pat Brown followed fellow young quick Josh Tongue (20) into the Worcestershire first team during a successful 2017 for the county.
The Peterborough-born Brown, a right-arm fast bowler with huge potential, was recruited by Worcestershire in 2015 after being spotted at a Pace Factor open day at Wellington School whilst he was then representing Lincolnshire Premier League side Market Deeping.
A regular for the club’s Second XI, he made his first team debut in a T20 match against Nottinghamshire in July before playing a further five NatWest Blast matches with limited success.
He proved much more adept with red ball in hand, making his Championship debut against Sussex in August he claimed Joffra Archer as his maiden first-class victim as he ended the campaign with six wickets at 33.16 across four matches.
What 2018 holds in store?
With the Pears sealing promotion after two years in the Second Division, the whole playing staff face tougher times ahead.
However, the New Road-based side have an abundance of up-and-coming fast bowlers to compliment the club’s veteran performers.
The 2017 ever-present pace trio of Tongue, Joe Leach and Ed Barnard are certain to begin the season in possession of a starting role after sharing 163 Championship wickets between them last summer.
Elsewhere, fans favourite Jack Shantry and experienced newcomer Steve Magoffin will be in the mix to supplement the first-choice trio, leaving Brown to battle it out with fellow young quicks George Scrimshaw, Dillon Pennington and Adam Finch for a backup role.
Although Brown could initially struggle to cement a first XI spot, it remains a long season with three competitions to compete for so he’s likely to see some action down the line.
Tom Banton (19) – Somerset
An attacking top-order batsman and occasional wicketkeeper, Tom Banton is looking to follow in the footsteps of Tom Abell and George Bartlett in graduating from the Somerset academy into becoming a first-choice batsman.
The 19-year-old started out in the Warwickshire academy before moving south to Taunton in 2015 and recently signing a two-year professional contract to remain at the club until the end of the 2019 season.
He made Somerset debut last summer playing back-to-back T20 matches against Middlesex where he caught the eye with the sharp legside stumping of England batsman Dawid Malan.
Banton spent the winter in South Africa playing a tri-series with the hosts and Namibia alongside Somerset teammates Fin Trenouth (see below) and Tom Lammonby before they headed to the U19 World Cup in New Zealand.
Opening the batting alongside both Brook and Banks, Banton acuminated 233 runs at 38.83 with a superb 112 against the hosts New Zealand in England’s final match of the tournament.
What 2018 holds in store?
Eddie Byrom, Marcus Trescothick, Abell, Bartlett, James Hildreth started the recent four-day pre-season match with Ireland with the experienced Steven Davies keeping wicket and rounding out the top six.
With the recent arrival of Australian opener Matt Renshaw now confirmed, its likely that Byrom will give way to start the Championship season against Worcestershire on April 20th with Roelof van der Merve, Peter Trego and Lewis Gregory fighting it out for the allrounders role at number seven.
Such depth is likely to leave Banton and fellow youngsters Trenouth and Lammonby on the margins of the Championship side this summer.
However, after the departure of reserve wicketkeeper Ryan Davies over the winter, Banton is set to backup Steven Davies this year with plenty of limited-overs opportunities likely to be heading his way in the Royal London Cup and the Vitality Blast.
Finlay Trenouth (19) – Somerset
A hard-hitting batsman with enormous potential, 19-year-old Fin Trenouth has yet to play a senior match for his county but is already been talked up across the Quantock Hills.
The academy product shot to fame in 2016 when he scored an unbeaten 330 for the Somerset U17 side in a U17 Championship match against Hampshire.
A lively character with the ability to hit a clean ball, he’s currently signed to a summer contract at Taunton after graduating from the academy but its surely only a matter of time before the right-hander breaks into the first team setup.
Also capable of keeping wicket, he’s a product of the prestigious Millfield School – which has also produced the likes of James Hildreth, Craig Kieswetter and Daniel Bell-Drummond.
Trenouth made his England U19 debut against India last summer and also represented the team at the U19 World Cup in January but struggled to live up to his potential with just 27 runs at 6.75.
What 2018 holds in store?
It’s a big year for the exciting Trenouth. Only currently on a one-year deal with the county, he’ll be keen to impress in the second XI championship to earn a longer stay at the County Ground.
With Somerset deep in their batting heading into the season, Trenouth will be battling it out with fellow youngsters Bartlett, Banton and Lammonby for first XI opportunities.
He will also look to continue his apprenticeship with Devon in the Minor Counties League and club side Bristol CC in the West of England Premier League.
Felix Organ (18) – Hampshire
Offspinning-allrounder, Felix Organ broke into the Hampshire first XI last summer after string of impressive performances for the academy side.
Born in Sydney but raised in the south of England where he attended both Twyford and Canford schools, Organ’s 536 academy runs at 39.07 saw him earn his maiden first-class callup against Middlesex at Uxbridge.
Despite the inadequate Uxbridge drainage system, which saw the match dwindle into a bore draw, Organ managed to make 16 from 36 deliveries in his sole innings batting at number five.
Earlier in the summer he had represented the England U19 side in their limited overs series with India where he top-scored with 61 in the fourth match. However, he was overlooked for the U19 World Cup squad after a disappointing winter tri-series in South Africa.
He signed a two-year academy contract towards the end of the year and is very much a part of Hampshire’s longer-term plans going forward.
What 2018 holds in store?
Organ has already begun his 2018 campaign by playing four one-day matches for Hampshire during their pre-season participation in the Super50 Cup in Barbados in February.
After recording two ducks and taking just two wickets across the four matches, it’s safe to say Organ didn’t have the immediate impact he would have desired but he will be better off for the experience gained playing on turning Caribbean wickets.
Looking ahead to the county season, it already been confirmed that the 18-year-old will spend the majority of the season playing for the academy and in the Second XI championship.
With fellow allrounder Liam Dawson, recent England cap Mason Crane and young offspinner Brad Taylor ahead of him with the ball and the club recruiting top batting talent in Hashim Amla and Sam Northeast, it’s unlikely any first XI opportunities are forthcoming in 2018.
Also look out for… Jack Plom (18) – Essex, Liam Trevaskis (18) – Durham, Ollie Robinson (19) – Kent, James Taylor (17) – Derbyshire
In the aftermath of the biggest crisis to hit Australian cricket in recent memory, CaughtOutCricket examines five key talking points that remain in the public spotlight.
Will Steve Smith and David Warner play for Australia again?
After both were handed twelve-month bans by Cricket Australia (CA) for their involvements in the ball-tampering incident there is a case to suggest that neither man – Australia’s two leading batsmen – will ever represent their country again.
While that’s perhaps wide of the mark for former captain Smith – who has a relatively clean rap sheet up until now – the future isn’t quite so bright for Warner who carries plenty of previous baggage when it comes to crossing the line.
The early indications are that Warner, who CA said was the chief instigator in devising the ball-tampering plan, is expected to challenge his ban in the next seven days as he fights for his international future. Reports coming out ofESPNcricinfo suggest that Warner could be forced out of the national setup completely – similar to the way the ECB disposed of Kevin Pietersen after a disastrous Ashes campaign four years ago.
Even if Warner did find himself back in favour of the national setup, its been confirmed that he will never hold another leadership position, Smith on the other hand is banned from captaining the side again for at least 24 months.
While CA have come down particularly harsh on each player, its Warner who’s become the scapegoat especially among his fellow teammates and staff members.
With the twelve-month hiatus including no participation in the IPL or any domestic or international cricket associated with CA, it appears a long road back for Smith and Warner.
Who is the next long-term captain?
When it was decided that both Smith and Warner would be stepped down from their leadership roles with immediate effect on the fourth morning of the recent Newlands Test, it was Tim Paine who was the obvious choice as stand-in captain.
Paine has been looked upon as a potential future leader from as far back as 2010 – the year he made his Test debut against Pakistan. However, he has played just eight Tests since returning to the Test side after a seven-year break between caps so its natural that the decision to appoint him Australia’s 46th Test captain comes with a certain amount of scrutiny.
At 33, Paine’s career is closer to the conclusion than the beginning and while he’s enjoyed a renaissance with both bat and gloves since his return its impossible not to imagine that his appointment as captain has been finalised with a fair amount of haste and short-termism.
But with a Test match beginning in Johannesburg on Friday, the CA hierarchy were left with little choice but to appoint Paine to the role. With Smith and Warner unavailable the other viable options appear sparse.
Western Australia skipper and current Australian allrounder Mitchell Marsh looks the most likely candidate going forward. The 26-year-old led the Australian U19 side to World Cup success in 2010 but has limited other captaincy to fall back on having only recently been appointed as WA skipper last summer.
Marsh, like Paine and another possible option in Victorian captain Peter Handscomb, is still to fully establish himself in the current Australian side.
The debate will go on.
How did Darren Lehmann survive the fallout?
How is Lehmann still in a job? Is the question many cricket fans are currently asking. Reports surfaced on Tuesday that Lehmann was set to offer his resignation to the CA board after becoming one of the six members said to be involved in the fiasco.
However, after speaking to CA head of Integrity Iain Roy and CEO James Sutherland it has been determined that Lehmann had no prior knowledge of the ball-tampering ploy before it was carried out on the field by Cameron Bancroft.
Many have reasoned that it would’ve been impossible for Lehmann to have been in the dark over the incident, especially as he was seen apparently communicating with the 12th man Handscomb via a walkie talkie. Yet somehow, he and assistant coach David Sakar have come out of the internal investigations relatively unscathed.
It now looks likely that Lehmann will see out his existing contract which runs until after the 2019 World Cup and Ashes campaigns in England. His long-term successor remains the former Aussie opener and current WA coach Justin Langer who is expected to take over the role after the expiration of Lehmann’s current deal.
Lehmann has enjoyed plenty of success as coach – highlighted by a World Cup triumph on home soil and two victorious home Ashes campaigns but he’s also had his critics who suggest he’s fostered and overseen a bad culture in the Australian dressing room.
Can the team environment change significantly enough to win back the public?
The fallout from this week’s events across the cricketing, political and social media world has been unprecedented.
Some have called for life bans to be handed out to all involved with plotting the on-field cheating, while others have suggested the bans handed to Bancroft, Smith and Warner were ‘Punishments that didn’t fit the crime’.
One-year bans for Smith and Warner and nine months for Bancroft undoubtedly appear harsh but clearly CA felt the desperate need to make an example of the trio. Pressure from the government and lucrative sponsorship partners certainly didn’t help their cause when deciding the adequate justice and punishment for men representing their country on the world stage.
With the aforementioned trio now out of the picture it’ll be the responsibility of Lehmann, Paine and other senior members such as Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc to forge a new ‘cleaner’ culture in the dressing room.
CEO James Sutherland has already confirmed that CA are committed to setting up an independent review into “the conduct and culture” of the men’s teams which will be conducted by an expert panel and reported back to the CA board.
With this in mind the team must make a sustained effort to win back the wider public by ditching the ‘bad guy’ on field persona inherited under the leadership of Michael Clarke and continued during the Smith regime.
The over-the-top sledging must also be eradicated immediately if they’re to appear serious about changing the identity of the national side for the betterment of cricket in Australia.
What does the future look like?
The immediate future begins on Friday with a series still on the line. Although Australia find themselves 2-1 down with one Test to play they must begin to draw a-line-in-the-sand over the recent events and remember that they are in South Africa to play cricket.
Queensland pair Matt Renshaw and Joe Burns have been drafted into open the batting while either Glenn Maxwell or Handscomb will slot into Smith’s role at number four.
The immediate loss of the side’s best two batsmen is sure to leave a gaping hole. The team has struggled to build big totals without heavy contributions from either Smith or Warner and other senior batsmen such as Usman Khawaja and Shaun Marsh must now step out of the shadows and help fill the void.
Should Smith and Warner return to the side upon the completion of their twelve month bans then they will miss a ODI series in England in June, followed by a tour to Zimbabwe, a home series against Bangladesh, ODI’s against Pakistan in the UAE & South Africa at home, before home Test series against both India and Sri Lanka and then an ODI series in India and Tests in the UAE against Pakistan.
With World Cup and Ashes defences on the line later in 2019 it promises to be an important eighteen months in Australian cricket.
Australia showed plenty of grit and resolve in Test series against India, Bangladesh and England, but their limited-overs performances took a nose-drive as off field issues clouded much of the year.
In the midst of another successful home Ashes campaign it’s easy to assume that everything in 2017 was rosy Down Under. However, just a few months ago Australian cricket found itself draped in a deep power struggle with potentially lasting consequences.
A contract pay dispute between Cricket Australia (CA) and the Australian Cricketers Association (ACA) had become so serious that mediation was called for and government influence was on standby should the dispute not be resolved before the Ashes.
Whether the Ashes would have ever become compromised is up for debate. However, that it ever got to that stage was a major concern for all involved.
With the CA board wanting to break up the previous revenue sharing model – which had effectively been in place since 1998 – and the ACA wanting to keep the same memorandum of understanding (MoU) in place there was bound to be a conflict of interests – but the way it played out in public didn’t reflect well on either party.
With 230 of the 300 contracted Australian cricketers essentially unemployed throughout July, it raised concerns that some players would turn their backs on CA altogether and instead join the T20 circuits around the world.
After months of public squabbling between CA and the ACA it took the rational intervention of long-time CA CEO James Sutherland to finally bring the two parties together and a new MoU was eventually agreed on August 3rd. The players would keep their revenue sharing model with a few compromises and CA would ensure no more cricket was lost with tours of Bangladesh and India looming on the horizon.
On the field the Test side, marshalled by the increasingly influential Steve Smith, enjoyed relative success. In all, they finished the year with six wins, two draws and three defeats spread across four series. In January they romped to 220-run win over Pakistan in Sydney to seal a 3-0 whitewash over the visitors before heading to India in February.
Despite a spectacular 333-run victory in the first Test in Pune, Australia went onto lose the four-Test series 2-1 with defeats in Bengaluru and Dharamsala sandwiched between a draw in Ranchi. Despite another series defeat on the subcontinent – this felt like a watershed moment.
Led by the excellent Smith, who scored three centuries in the series on his way to 499 runs at 71.28, Australia competed well in each of the matches and were unlucky to come out second best against a fine Indian side.
For Smith it was just the beginning in another extraordinary year in Test cricket. He’d go onto finish the year as the leading run-maker with 1305 runs at 76.76 – the fourth successive year he’s passed the 1000+ run mark. Not satisfied with only three centuries in India he also scored another three in the first four Ashes Tests later in the year. Match winning efforts in Brisbane and Perth were joined by a match-saving vigil in Melbourne.
Like Smith, Nathan Lyon also finished the year on top of the world. His 63 wickets at 23.55 were more than any other bowler and his evolution as a world-class spinner played a major part in Australia’s Test fortunes.
Lyon certainly played a huge role in Australia’s two match tour of Bangladesh in August. His 22 wickets at 14.31 included three five-wicket hauls in just four innings as the visitors fought back from a 20-run defeat in Mirpur to level the series with a seven-wicket victory in Chittagong. The series also witnessed the return to form of David Warner who scored back-to-back centuries after struggling in similar conditions in India.
The return of Pat Cummins to the Test side was also a major boost. A spate of injuries had meant that 1946 days had elapsed between his debut in December 2011 and his return to the side in March. His return meant that Australia could finally field their pace attack of choice, for an Ashes series no less, with Cummins joining Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood.
The Ashes were regained with the minimum amount of fuss. Despite many, this author included, predicting a tighter series it took just 15 days and three Tests for the Urn to return Down Under.
Led by the runs of Smith and the shared wickets of Cummins, Hazlewood, Lyon and Starc they blow England away whenever the visitors appeared to be in the contest. While it wasn’t as brutal as the Mitchell Johnson-led effort of four years previous, the short-pitched bowling was enough to regularly dislodge a weak England batting line-up.
Don’t be mistaken though, this still isn’t a great Australian Test side. They are, though, an improving side who should still have their best years ahead of them. In fact, of the current side only Tim Paine and Shaun Marsh are entering their latter years.
The selectors deserve a great deal of credit for their sensible and brave selection calls ahead of the series with veteran’s Paine and Marsh recalled to the side ahead of underperforming duo Matthew Wade and Glenn Maxwell. Likewise, Cameron Bancroft and Mitchell Marsh both made vital contributions when called upon to replace the out-of-touch Matthew Renshaw and Peter Handscomb.
In the limited overs formats, it was a poor year. They started the year with a 4-1 series victory at home to Pakistan but struggled to replicate that form away from home. A 2-0 series defeat in New Zealand was followed by a disappointing Champions Trophy campaign.
Not helped by the wet English weather they saw their opening two matches both abandoned before they were knocked out of the tournament by hosts England. Although news has recently broken that shows them somewhat unfortunate to have exited the tournament so early, their displays against New Zealand and England were sub-par.
They were then defeated 4-1 in India to round out a disappointing year in ODI cricket. Finding the right balance remains a key issue going forward for a side looking to defend their World Cup crown in 2019.
In T20 cricket they won just two of the six matches they played. Despite the growing success of the Big Bash, it remains a format which the national side has yet to master. Although they weren’t helped earlier in the year when a scheduling farce forced them to pick a weakened side for a three-match home series with Sri Lanka.
With the Test side over in India preparing for their series opener in Pune – a T20I match was being played at the Adelaide Oval just 15hrs and 50mins beforehand.
High Point: Victory in Pune.
Despite winning the Ashes back on the final day of Test cricket at Perth’s famous WACA ground, Australia’s best moment of the year came in Pune in late February.
Going into the series against India as huge underdogs – owing mainly to their terrible recent record on the subcontinent – Australia turned the tables (quite literally!!) to beat a fancied Indian side and go one-nil up in the series.
For the Aussies it was their first Test victory on Indian soil since an Adam Gilchrist-led side won 2-1 there in 2004.
Led by the 12 wickets of left-arm spinner Steve O’Keefe and a fine second-innings hundred by Smith they bowled out the Indians for just 105 and 107 on a raging turner to win by a gigantic 333 runs.
Although they still went onto lose the Border-Gavaskar Trophy 2-1, it showed that they could achieve success in subcontinental conditions.
Low Point: Public pay disputes.
While their 20-run defeat to Bangladesh in Mirpur in August – their first ever Test loss to the Asian nation – was the low point on the field, the significance of the pay dispute and its effect on the perception of cricket in Australia was particularly damning.
As the whole episode played out in a public slanging match, the way Australian cricket was being ran – often the envy of other cricket boards across the world – had been severely tarnished.
Despite not being a kid anymore at 25, Bancroft made his first serious foray into the international game when he was drafted in to open the batting for the Ashes.
Set to make his Test debut in Bangladesh in 2015 before the tour was postponed on security grounds, he was finally rewarded with a place in the side at the expense of an out-of-form Renshaw.
When others were failing to make an impression, Bancroft hit 442 runs at 110.50 for Western Australia in the early rounds of the Sheffield Shield. His 76no and 86 against a full strength New South Wales attack was a particularly significant factor in his callup.
After a superb unbeaten second-innings 82 on Test debut in Brisbane his form has thus far been patchy with 179 runs at just 29.84, although he’s sure to be granted a prolonged run in the side.
There was a time – after he endured a mixed tour of India and subsequently lost his CA contract – that Shaun Marsh looked like becoming the 2017 fading star of Australian cricket.
However, a fine Ashes series has seen the 34-year-old batsman remain a pivotal part of Smith’s side – instead its Peter Siddle who has seen his eight-year international career drift towards its conclusion.
The 33-year-old Siddle last played a Test for his country against South Africa in Perth last November before succumbing to a back injury which ruled him out of action until October. After a slump in form for Victoria – He’s taken just five first-class wickets at 75.20 in four matches this summer – he was dropped for the most recent Shield match against Western Australia.
Barring a huge turnaround in form and a spate of injuries to the current Australian quicks, it’s likely that Siddle’s played the last of his 62 Tests. An accurate seamer bowler in his prime, “Sidds” has taken 211 wickets at 29.92 since making his debut in India in 2008.
Although Australia start as favourites, expect a tight Ashes series as both teams line up with obvious flaws in their armouries.
And so, the Ashes are again upon us. Four years have flown by since Mitchell Johnson ripped through the visiting Englishmen like a knife through butter as the hosts recorded their second 5-0 whitewash in three home Ashes encounters.
This time around Johnson will be watching on his couch at home – two years into International retirement – However, for England other threats remain. None more so that Johnson’s predecessor, Mitchell Starc.
Starc has started the Sheffield Shield season in red hot form. His figures – 2-46, 8-73, 4-56, 3-41 – suggest that he’s at the top of his game and with two hat-tricks in his previous match against Western Australia, there could be plenty of sleepless nights in the England camp.
With that being said, this could be a much closer Ashes tussle than most had previously expected. For there are obvious weaknesses in each side heading into the series opener in Brisbane on Thursday.
Australia, although boasting a fine and well balanced bowling unit, have deep concerns over their middle-order batting composition. Despite the heroics of Johnson four years ago, it was the continuous late-order bailing out by wicketkeeper Brad Haddin which helped Australia regain the urn. Haddin’s 493 runs were second only to David Warner in the series as he regularly dispirited the English when they’d often broken the back of the Aussie batting.
This time around it’s the contentious recalling of 32-year-old gloveman Tim Paine that has led to several questions being asked down under. Paine, who last played Test cricket over seven years ago, has kept wicket for Tasmania only three times in the past two years after a serious finger injury and hasn’t made a first-class century since 2006. Averaging just 20.40 in his last two years of first-class cricket, his recall has come hugely out of the blue despite the continuing failures of previous incumbents Peter Nevill and Matthew Wade.
At number six, Shaun Marsh’s inclusion had led to more contention. Marsh has been chosen ahead of Glenn Maxwell due to his recent form and experience according to head selector Trevor Hohns. His inclusion at number six means that Australia will go into the first Test with just four bowlers in Starc, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon.
Instead of including an allrounder at number six they’ll be banking on by selecting inform batsmen Marsh and Cameron Bancroft to compliment Warner, Steven Smith, Usman Khawaja and Peter Handscomb they’ll score enough runs to allow the three quicks plenty of time to rest.
And the three quicks will certainly need enough rest. Starc has played only two first-class matches since being diagnosed with a foot stress injury in March, while Hazlewood injured a side during the most recent Test series in Bangladesh and has played just once since. Cummins, meanwhile, has a studied history of breakdowns since making his debut six years ago.
Keeping the trio fit and firing for five successive Tests remains key to Australia’s chances, especially as immediate backup options James Pattinson and Nathan Coulter-Nile have already been ruled out of contention leaving Jackson Bird and Chadd Sayers as the next in line.
England have could have worries in the bowling department too. Their over reliance on James Anderson and Stuart Broad is undeniable. If either man or Chris Woakes were to succumb to injury early in the series then it could leave them ruthlessly exposed.
Without the all round qualities of Ben Stokes, and also missing the unfit trio Mark Wood, Steven Finn and Toby Roland-Jones, they are left to decide between the undercooked Jake Ball or the untried Craig Overton for the fourth seamers role. Beyond that the reserves are even more raw with George Garton and Tom Curren providing the initial backup options.
This Ashes campaign could well be decided by the fitness of either side’s main quick bowlers and the effectiveness of their reserves.
While the Australian’s have experienced recent batting woes in the middle order, the English have struggled to find the right formula at the top of theirs. Their over reliance on Alastair Cook and Joe Root has been well documented in recent years and they still find themselves unsettled at positions two, three and five.
Both opener Mark Stoneman and number five Dawid Malan found form with centuries in the final warm-up fixture in Townsville – albeit against weak opposition bowlers and on a flat wicket. Stoneman, with plenty of experience playing Grade cricket, should fair well as his game is well suited to the fast Australian wickets. Malan, like number three James Vince, could well be a lottery.
For England to have any chance in the series they must look to post gigantic first-innings totals much like they did when they won down under in 2010/11. On that occasion they had massive contributions from Cook, Ian Bell, Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen, while Andrew Strauss and Matt Prior also chipped in with valuable contributions.
Ashes campaigns can often end and define careers. The 2013/14 Ashes whitewash effectively saw the end of a generation of successful England players. Longtime stalwarts Pietersen, Prior, Graeme Swann, Tim Bresnan, Monty Panesar and Jonathan Trott either retired or were faded out after the series.
Likewise, Australia’s 3-2 series defeat in England in 2015 saw the back of Haddin, Shane Watson, Ryan Harris, Chris Rogers and captain Michael Clarke.
But with departures also comes new beginnings. Both current skippers Smith and Root had career lightbulb moments during the series four years ago. Smith regularly claims his hundred in Perth was the catalyst to his successful upturn in form that saw him captain the side just twelve months later and eventually become the best Test batsman in the world.
For Root, it was his dropping for the Sydney Test that held him in good stead when he later forced his way back into the side. His return against Sri Lanka in 2014 was the beginning of a run that has seen him become England’s premier batsman and now captain marvel.
How the pair cope with the bat and in the field will be crucial to how the series unfolds later this week.
Look out for:
Moeen Ali – England
After missing the first two warm-up matches with a side injury, Moeen is now deemed to be fit and ready to go after getting through 48 overs unscathed in Townsville last week.
With Stokes still unavailable due to an ongoing Police investigation, Moeen’s importance to the side has never been higher. It’s likely that he will move up a place to number seven in the batting lineup in Stokes’ absence and his late order hitting will be key to England’s chances of posting big totals.
His bowling will be equally important to the cause. With Australia readily renowned as a graveyard for offspinners over the years, Moeen will need to offer his captain control at important junctures of the match as Root will look to rotate his quicks.
If he can pray on the mind’s of Australia’s attacking batsmen – who regularly underestimated him during the 2015 Ashes – then he can again enjoy success.
Pat Cummins – Australia
Cummins could be forgiven for believing he may never play a home Test match let alone an Ashes series.
Yet, he’s now nailed on to join his New South Wales bowling teammates at the Gabba on Thursday morning as a key component in Australia’s plan to regain the little urn.
Still only 24-years-old, injuries have ravaged his young career to date. Since making his debut at the tender age of 18 six years ago, Cummins has succumbed to a series of stress injuries to the back and has, until this year, been unable to string together any meaningful cricket.
At his best he’s capable of bowling 90mph plus and swinging the ball both ways, however after such a checkered injury history will his fitness hold up to the rigours of a five-Test Ashes campaign?