The speculation has finally ended and the curtains raised on the 17-member squad that the Australian Test team will have for the 5-match Ashes Test series beginning on August 1. Tim Paine retains his captaincy but there would be pressure on him as Matthew Wade, another keeper-batsman with experience of Test cricket and good first-class form behind him, has been included as well. Other usual suspects are all in the team except Shaun Marsh. His brother Mitchell, though, has found a place.
Talented pacer James Pattinson, who missed the last Ashes series – in 2017/18 due to injury and has been out of the team for a long time due to the same reason is also back in the squad. Peter Siddle, a veteran seamer who has struggled to get into the team due to the presence of Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc, also finds his way back into the squad.
The opener's spot, which has been causing problems to the Australian side will see the return of David Warner but who will open with him remains uncertain. Incumbent opener Marcus Harris has retained his place but Cameron Bancroft, another opener and the third player to be banned in the ball-tampering scandal, is also back due to his good performances in the county circuit.
Medium pace-bowling all-rounder Michael Neser has also been picked in the team but he is unlikely to get a go in the first Test. Marnus Labuschagne, the spin-bowling all-rounder retains his place in the team as does Travis Head who scored heavily against Sri Lanka in Australia's last Test series – earlier this year.
Interestingly, there is only one recognised frontline spinner in the entire squad – Nathan Lyon – which suggests that the Aussies don't foresee too many spin-friendly tracks in these five matches.
The spotlight though, would remain on the three players who are making a comeback to the Test side after suffering year-long bans for ball-tampering – Steve Smith, Warner and Bancroft. The first two played in the World Cup and were constantly booed by the crowd. Despite this, the duo produced good performances. They will again be targeted, along with Bancroft, in the series and their response would be interesting to see.
More importantly, the return of Warner and Smith would help the team immensely as, in their absence, the Australian batting has looked very brittle. The Tim Paine-led side would be looking to keep the Ashes in their possession after winning it by virtue of their 4-0 victory in the 2017/18 series.
Australia's squad: Tim Paine (c), Cameron Bancroft, Pat Cummins, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, Steven Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner.