Almanac Cricket: Picking Australia’s Best Ashes XI

With the Ashes just around the corner, and the hype surrounding this series greater than ever, it is almost time for the selectors to make the tough calls; particularly the debate over who will take that number 6 position, and who will take the gloves. With form concerns on top of this, the selection panel will have a few interesting decisions to make in the coming days.


Matthew Renshaw


Young Renshaw burst onto the scene after Australia’s capitulation to South Africa in Hobart 12 months ago, as a young 20 year old, really keen to play Test cricket. He survived night sessions with a pink ball, scored his maiden hundred in Sydney, and looked solid for the most part in India. Unfortunately, in Bangladesh, his form and confidence began to wane, and his cheap dismissals in his six digs this Shield season reflect that. Should still hold onto his position at the top of the order for at least the first two Tests, but facing the swing of Anderson and the seam of Broad is no easy task. Needs to regain his confidence, and fast, if he is to cement his spot as Australia’s short and long-term preference to partner David Warner at the top of the order.


David Warner (vc)


A very high quality batsman. Not much needs to be said about him. Coming off two drought-breaking hundreds in Bangladesh. Has 20 Test match centuries to his name, and is arguably one of Australia’s best ever opening batsmen. Look out for him to have a very big series.


Usman Khawaja


Looked solid in the Sheffield Shield, and will slot straight back into first drop. Despite his poor returns in Asia, and not being selected for India, he has proven to be a great batsman on his home soil. He was one of many to question the selector’s “horses for courses” policy by abandoning him in Asia, but has got his confidence back in the Shield, and after scoring fifties in every test last summer, looks set to continue his good form this series.


Steve Smith (c)


The Australian captain has had an up and down year so far. Scored three hundreds in four tests in India, to take him to the number 1 position in batting. But concerns were thrown around after a mediocre return in Bangladesh, and he looked to be in a small slump. Although he looks like he has got his touch back after the Sheffield Shield, facing the world’s highest-ranked bowler and the pantomime villain who destroyed them two years ago is a different story. I am not expecting as big a series by the skipper Smith, but he is a classy player with a Bradman-esque average of 60. He should regain his touch soon.


Peter Handscomb


His last 12 months have been nothing short of phenomenal. Earnt himself a well-deserved Baggy Green along with Renshaw and the not-so-lucky Nic Maddinson. Scored his first century in just his second test, followed by another in his fourth. Having not been dismissed below 50 until India, he looked very solid. Followed up his performances on home soil with a game-saving unbeaten 74 in Ranchi, and an 82 in the 40 degree heat of Chittagong. The 26-year-old still looks to have around 10 years left to really leave a mark on Australian cricket, and I reckon he is a good prospect to have a really big series.


Cameron Bancroft


This may be surprising for some but I think the 23-year-old deserves to grasp the 451st Baggy Green at the Gabba. Was picked to partner David Warner in Bangladesh 2 years ago, but when the tour was abandoned due to security warnings, Bancroft flew off the selector’s radar. Now he looks like he is back to the form that got him picked, with a colossal unbeaten 228.


The reason why I have gone with Bancroft is simple. Have a look at Australia’s last five losses in Test cricket. It is never our bowling that drags us down; it is our repeated batting collapses. The selectors are too worried about finding a number 6 who can bat and bowl. I believe that they should stick with 6 batsmen, a keeper and 4 bowlers. If needed, Steve Smith or Warner could roll their arms a bit.


We have seen in the past; Michael Clarke, Steve Waugh and Smith were very good batsmen at number six. If we stick with that, and our number 6 is a proper batsman, he can save us in tough situations. The Western Australian opener is a lot more solid than a Maxwell or a Cartwright or a Stoinis, and against Anderson and Broad, looks like he can be trusted. Inconsistency is not good enough in the Australian team, and that works against the others. If Bancroft is picked, back him to be the Brad Haddin that rescued us four years ago.


Peter Nevill (wk)


Another position that has sparked a lot of debate, but I think Peter Nevill is the man for the job, simply because he is the best keeper. The selectors have persisted with Matthew Wade for a long time, and it has not worked. He was added because he was supposedly a better batsman and talker than Nevill, but only has registered one half-century in the past twelve months, and his poor efforts behind the stumps have failed to back up his talk. Frankly, the number seven position should be occupied by the wicketkeeper who is the best at keeping wicket, and not batting or talking.


If Bancroft is number six, he should be very stable, and it would not matter if the number seven does not score runs. Previously, the Australian selectors were hung up on finding a keeper who could bat well, as the number six would not score runs. However, the truth is there will never be another Adam Gilchrist, and I expect Bancroft to cover for all those runs the selectors have wanted for so long from the number seven, so Nevill should be back in the team.


  1. Mitchell Starc


2 hat-tricks in one Shield match. Going into this first Test match, Mitch Starc is in top form. His inswinger is deadly and has already proven himself to be the best yorker bowler in the world (though Jasprit Bumrah is not far away). Extracts express pace and bounce, and really brings life to a dead wicket. Remember that spell of 150+ bowling to the Kiwis? Watch out for him to really target the new kids on the block, and teach them a little something about Test cricket. I do not know what Mark Stoneman, James Vince and Dawid Malan are thinking about the Australian spearhead, but they are in for a tough tour.


 Pat Cummins


Remember that day six years ago when 18-year-old Cummins made his debut in South Africa? He claimed man-of-the-match honours after taking six-fer in the second innings, and then hitting the winning runs. Now he is bowling above 150 clicks, terrorising batsmen with his sheer pace and bounce. He does it with half his index finger missing as well. Seems to have fixed up his injury complaints, but hopefully does not wear out before the series ends, after the massive workload in Bangladesh and the one-dayers in India. He really is a workhorse, just like Ryan Harris was. Nonetheless, I see him doing a demolition job on England’s top order, and could become a real game-changer as the series progresses.


Nathan Lyon


The GOAT. Who could go past him? 250+ wickets, and is in the form of his life. Took a career-best 8-50 in India, then followed up with 20 wickets in two Tests in Bangladesh. Should become this year’s leading wicket-taker this Ashes series, and his off-spin should keep the English batsmen on their toes. Watch out for Gazza this Ashes series.


Josh Hazlewood


The third paceman of this bowling attack. He brings this side some consistency, to make up for the sometimes eratic Starc and Cummins. Just like Peter Siddle four years ago, I do not expect him to get too many wickets, but he will frustrate a lot of batsmen with his Glenn McGrath line and length of bowling. Like Pat Cummins, he is really a powerhouse, and has a lot of endurance, having missed just two Test matches since his debut.




Overall, this Australian team looks to have the right balance. Six batsmen, a quality keeper, three explosive quicks and the greatest Australian off spinner of all-time. Some shocks, some form issues, but overall, what looks to be a pretty solid team. Below are my predictions of what is shaping up to be a thrilling Ashes series.


I am predicting that Pat Cummins will take a stack of wickets, while Warner, Khawaja and Smith will score the bulk of the runs. A nasty campaign looks set to begin for the Poms. The future does not look good for them.

About Daniel Saunders

Yes, that's my Swans hoodie. Yes, those are swans in London. If you're reading this, I hope you enjoyed the ramble.


  1. Daniel,it looks a damn good side.

    Your point about why you select Bancroft at 6 makes total sense. We haven’t lost tests because of the bowlers, it’s been the frality of the batting.

    Bring on the summer.


  2. Look forward to hearing from you once the action starts Daniel.
    I picked a team about a month ago with the only uncertainty No 6 in the pecking order. Now I am not so sure. RENSHAW should not be selected on form but selectors will remember last year on his home turf.
    CAMERON BANCROFT is the flavour of the month and will be selected or the “knives will be out.
    I still like CARTWRIGHT and would have both Sandgropers in the team.
    Unfortunately the way in to the team is via a blue cap on your head and HUGHES has been “selected” by the skipper.
    I will tell you on Friday night.
    See you all at the Gabba on Thursday

    PS Don’t under estimate the Poms! There is a bit of grit and determination there!

  3. Hi Daniel as long as the selectors don’t do the idiotic and pick Bancroft as the keeper it ruined Wayne Phillips no no and no re part time keeper

  4. Peter warrington says

    I do ‘ see how they can pick Renshaw and not Maxeell

    But they will

    I would go the form double and get Weatherald in too. 4 tons already this season.

    Bancroft (wk)

    Handscomb for 490 runs and cummins 30 at 20.

  5. Peter warrington says

    Omg Smarsh

    It just defies belief

  6. pw – Steve Mars or Trent Chaplin?

  7. Sorry Steve is not from Mars. Just another planet West Australia under the name MARSH!!!

  8. Yes the drums are beating loudly: S Marsh.

    It will be his eigth recall, with an expectation in this incarnation, as in all previous ones, he’ll make a big score, followed by a string of single figure scores.

    Oh well it could be worse, it could be M, & S marsh.


  9. Daniel Saunders says

    Personally, I do not mind the decision of Tim Paine, but red alarms start going off in my head when Shaun Marsh gets picked at the expense of Renshaw

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