Who makes Australia’s 2023 Ashes XI?


There’s a lot of big cricket coming up – the T20 World Cup, Australia’s Test tour to India in early 2023, and then the next Ashes in England.

Australia played well back in 2019 and could easily have won the series (England were incredibly “saved” by Ben Stokes’ heroics at Headingley).

We will do one better this time and win in England (despite the fact that a few notable betting agencies have England as current favourites).

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What’s our XI?

There are five absolute locks – captain Pat Cummins, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon. In addition, Cameron Green and Mitchell Starc are very much likely to be in our best XI. The other four spots in our XI are likely to be David Warner and Usman Khawaja as openers, Travis Head at 5, and Alex Carey as wicketkeeper.

Warner has age, his record in England (where he averages only 26 in Tests, with no hundreds) and the fact that his nemesis Broad will still be playing counting against him. With Khawaja it is only his age (certainly he couldn’t have scored more runs in 2022).

Travis Head will need more big Test runs this summer but should be entering 2023 in his prime as a Test batsman (while noting that, in the 2019 Ashes in England, Head made only 191 runs at 27 with a HS of 51). Carey may well come under threat from Josh Inglis.

(Photo by Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images)

So our XI for the first Test in Edgbaston in June 2023 is likely to be as listed below.

Warner
Khawaja
Labuschagne
Smith
Green
Head
Carey (+)
Cummins (C)
Starc
Lyon
Hazlewood

But I do see Warner and potentially Head not playing the entire series unless form dictates otherwise, and I do see a number of the quicks (most notably Starc) being rotated for Scott Boland and even Jhye Richardson.

You’d think that Boland must play at least a couple of Tests – his record in Tests to date is 3 matches, 18 wickets, average of 9.55 with an economy rate of 2.11. Wow! Boland should do well in England – I’d like to see another 6/7 at perhaps Headingley.

And Starc’s numbers in England have been mixed – my research shows his Test average in England is 31 with an economy rate of 3.44 (we need in particular the latter to be lower than that in 2023). A key element to beating the “Bazball” England XI is drying up runs for the less experienced English batsmen.

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No cause for concern

Our middle order batting looks strong. Expect Smith to be back to his best (well, maybe not his Bradman-esque best, but certainly top three in the world status). In the 2019 Ashes in England, Smith made 774 runs at 111 with a HS of 211. His strike rate was 65!

Marnus will revel being back in English conditions. In 2019, Labuschagne made 353 runs at 50 with a HS of 80. His strike rate was more measured at 51.

And if Green can make a few big Test scores this summer he can entrench not only a Test place – but also perhaps even the No.5 batting spot. With his temperament, Green could lock in 5 for a long time – leaving someone like Head to counterattack as required from 6. Green’s first class record with the bat is 2967 runs at 49 (and with the ball 56 wickets at 31) – but he is even better than these numbers suggest.

In Tests, Green could easily average 50 with the bat and, say, 27 or fewer with the ball. Cameron Green really does present the answer to the all-rounder conundrum that has plagued Australia for so long – this will of course be helpful and nowhere more so than in England!

With Carey and Inglis fighting it out to be wicketkeeper we are well-served whoever is selected. Both are quality keepers who bat well (and can bat the conditions well). Carey averages 32 in Tests so far and would like to increase that this summer. While many perceive Inglis to be the better batsman, their respective first class averages are (for Carey) 33.82 and (for Inglis) 33.61. So Carey, as the incumbent, gets first shot.

Our bowling looks awesome. Hazlewood and Cummins to lead the attack; Lyon as the spinner; and Starc/Boland/Jhye Richardson as the third option. Expect all five of these quicks to feature in Ashes Tests in 2023 (with Michael Neser possibly being the only touring quick not to play a Test). As above, Boland ought to feature heavily – he should play two Tests at a minimum.

Scott Boland

(Photo by Darrian Traynor – CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

So this leaves Warner, perhaps Khawaja and Head as the potential vulnerabilities. But I am not concerned by this – based on last season’s Shield performances we have batsmen who can step in as and when necessary. Khawaja has been in career-best form during 2022 – and long may this continue.

And Warner has the incentive of bowing out with a bang – a T20 World Cup win, a Test series win in India, an Ashes win in England, and an ODI World Cup win. That is an epic incentive.

Potential incoming batsmen

I wouldn’t be looking at Marcus Harris (14 Tests, 607 runs at 25 with a HS of 79), Mitch Marsh (32 Tests, 1260 runs at 25) or (for England only) Glenn Maxwell. I probably also wouldn’t be looking at Matt Renshaw or Kurtis Patterson right now – unless they make quality Shield runs this summer. Of course, Patterson has that amazing Test record to date of two Tests, 144 runs at 144 with a HS of 114 not out.

The batsmen who are next in line to step in in the 2023 Ashes are listed below.

Openers

Will Pucovski averages 52 in Shield cricket. He made 62 on debut in Test cricket, and could readily open or bat at 5 or 6. If Pucovski can put concussion absences behind him, he can pick his spot in the Australian top six. Will needs an uninterrupted run this summer – and plenty of runs.

Sam Whiteman/Henry Hunt – Whiteman isn’t a name that is suggested by many but with 641 runs at 58 last Shield season, this name should be in the reckoning if Warner or Khawaja fails over the summer.

Likewise, Henry Hunt should also be in the mix with (including as an opener). Hunt scored 601 runs at 43 last Shield season. Bryce Street is another to watch – he scored 475 Shield runs last summer at 28.

Middle order

Will Pucovski – see above.

Peter Handscomb – top run-scorer in the last Shield season with 697 at 50. Handscomb could do well in English conditions – and with more runs like last summer he’s the logical replacement if Head struggles in the first two Tests.

Others include Nic Maddinson (545 runs at 55 in the last Shield season), Hilton Cartwright (601 runs at 43) and Jordan Silk (514 runs at 57). Maddinson is playing for Durham at the moment to gain familiarity with English conditions – he didn’t make a lot of runs in August with his big bat, but got a 50 vs Leicestershire recently.

This batting depth may be especially important given the sheer quantity of cricket to be played over the next 12 months.

Ashes themes

A few themes will emerge in 2023 Ashes.

“Bazball” will continue, with mixed success. This is a positive and a negative for both teams: England might have some purple sessions, but they might also have some shockers. You really just need to watch to see what happens next.

The perfect way to counter Bazball is with sheer never-ending relentlessness – batting time, putting away the risky shots a la Steve Waugh back in the early 1990s, and just unerring attacking quality bowling (which three specialist quicks, Green and Lyon will undoubtedly provide).

Regeneration for both Australia and England. For Australia, we will soon lose Warner and Khawaja – and we might see Pucovski establish himself in the Test arena.

Will Pucovski of Australia bats

(Photo by Cameron Spencer – CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

Just as importantly – if not more so – we might see Cameron Green establish himself as a top-level Australian Test all-rounder – maybe the best we’ve had since Keith Miller.

England lack consistency. They need to find some consistent openers (are Alex Lees, Dom Sibley & Zak Crawley good enough?), and hopefully can get one or both of Mark Wood and Jofra Archer on the field for the series. But their biggest question is who will be the long-term replacements for both Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad.

Surely Anderson and Broad can only play, say, three Tests each?

Robinson and Woakes are okay – but will there be incisiveness going forward for England? England do have the ability to win from anywhere, with incredible flair. But they do need to find consistency – and maybe some more toughness.

Best Australian squad

While there’s a lot of cricket to be played between now and the 2023 Ashes, here’s my 18-man Test squad.

Warner
Khawaja
Labuschagne
Smith
Green
Head (vc)
Carey (wk)
Cummins (c)
Starc
Lyon
Hazlewood

Reserves: Boland, Pucovski, Handscomb, Inglis, Agar (unlikely to be used), Neser and Jhye Richardson.

The answers will lie with watching the Tests this summer. And watch more Shield cricket over the BBL. I’ll certainly be watching as much Shield cricket as possible.

Who have I missed? Do the Australian selectors need to be bolder? Will there be any genuine “smokies” like Whiteman?

What do the expert Roarers think?

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