Perth Scorchers gave their Big Bash League campaign a much-needed shot in the arm on Wednesday with an emphatic 40-run victory over Brisbane Heat in Carrara.

The Scorchers, who propped up the table in a miserable 2018-19 campaign after top-three finishes in each of the previous seven seasons, began 2020 with one win from four matches this term.

However, a total of 149-6 - underpinned by Cameron Bancroft's 50 - proved more than enough to get them home on this occasion as the Heat collapsed to 109 all out.

Spinners Fawad Ahmed and Ashton Agar did the bulk of the damage, returning respective figures of 3-16 and 2-16 from four overs, and an entertaining final-wicket stand of 31 in 3.3 overs between Zahir Khan and Ben Laughlin only made the final analysis more respectable for Brisbane, who now have only one victory from four games themselves.

The Scorchers' second success lifts them to four points and two off the top four.

 

BANCROFT JUDGES CONDITIONS PERFECTLY

On a pitch that appeared two-paced, Josh Inglis (27 off 19) and Mitchell Marsh (26 off 19) briefly sparkled for the Scorchers, the latter striking two huge sixes over the leg side.

However, it was Bancroft who made the most valuable contribution, ticking along at roughly a run a ball for most of his innings before accelerating to reach 50 from 42 balls.

Bancroft fell to the next delivery he faced, but his perfectly paced innings gave Perth a total they ultimately defended with ease as Brisbane's big hitters all failed to make an impact.

 

TON UP FOR LAUGHLIN

Although the Heat were well beaten, Laughlin could take pride from becoming the first bowler to claim 100 BBL wickets.

The veteran seamer came into this contest with 98 scalps and removed Marsh to get to 99 before having Agar caught behind for his milestone wicket in the final over of the Scorchers' innings.

Laughlin also clubbed the first ball he faced for six, before prolonging the contest in an enjoyable partnership with Zahir, who had been the pick of the Heat bowlers with 2-18. The pair were the highest scorers in Brisbane's innings, Zahir making 19 not out and Laughlin adding 17, but it was not enough.

Cameron Bancroft has been dropped by Australia in what is otherwise a settled Test squad to face New Zealand.

Australia recorded innings wins in both Tests against Pakistan and opted to name a 13-man squad for their three meetings with the Black Caps.

Bancroft has struggled in the Sheffield Shield and his omission was the only change to the squad named to face Pakistan.

"As we said prior to the Pakistan series we are striving to maintain a core group of players. The performance of the team against Pakistan was very impressive across all areas, while there is always some room to improve," Australia national selector Trevor Hohns said in a statement on Tuesday.

"David Warner has been in exceptional form with the bat. The support he received from Joe Burns in Brisbane and Marnus Labuschagne in Adelaide was exactly what we had been asking for from the top order. They delivered, setting up both matches in what was an outstanding all-round performance.

"We are backing the current batting line-up to continue their form across the next three Tests. Whilst not a part of this squad, Cameron Bancroft remains one of the standby players. Similarly, depending on conditions, we reserve the right to add a player to the squad at any time during the series.

"Michael Neser and James Pattinson will continue as cover for Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood through the series. Michael will play for Queensland against New South Wales in the Marsh Sheffield Shield game at the SCG, as James did last week for Victoria."

The first Test between Australia and New Zealand will begin in Perth on December 12 before matches in Melbourne and Sydney.

Australia: Tim Paine (c), Joe Burns, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner.

Joe Burns has returned to a 14-man Australia squad at the expense of Marcus Harris and Usman Khawaja for the two-Test series against Pakistan.

Queensland batsman Burns is expected to partner David Warner at the top of the order on his home surface when the series begins at the Gabba on November 21.

Burns, who was overlooked for the Ashes after battling post-viral fatigue, is back in the fold despite making 0 and 11 for Australia A in this week's tour match against Pakistan.

Cameron Bancroft compiled a defiant 49 in the first innings of that match and is set to compete with Burns for a recall.

National selector Trevor Hohns indicated Travis Head, one of two vice-captains, would likely regain his spot in the playing side.

The 25-year-old South Australian was dropped for the final Ashes Test, but Will Pucovski's withdrawal from consideration for mental health reasons left selectors with few genuine middle-order options.

"Travis has immense experience as a young leader for his state," Hohns said on Thursday.

"He's certainly been in the mix, [firstly] to play, and we also like the way he goes about his business when he's around the team and the leadership skills he has to offer."

Left-handers Harris and Khawaja will not be involved in Brisbane or in the second Test in Adelaide, which starts on November 29.

Uncapped seamer Michael Neser is one of five pace bowling options in the squad alongside Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and James Pattinson.

Meanwhile, Steve Smith has been fined 25 per cent of his Sheffield Shield match fee after pleading guilty to the charge of showing dissent at an umpire's decision.

The world's top-ranked Test batsman showed visible frustration after being judged caught behind for 103 in the first innings of New South Wales' match against Western Australia.

 

Australia Test squad: Tim Paine (captain), Cameron Bancroft, Joe Burns, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner.

Cameron Bancroft dug in after his fellow Test hopefuls failed miserably with the bat on day two of the tour match between Pakistan and Australia A.

Joe Burns was bowled for a golden duck by the excellent Imran Khan (5-32) before Marcus Harris (16), Travis Head (13), Usman Khawaja (6), and Will Pucovski (5) also fell cheaply.

Bancroft made a patient 49 after coming in at number six, putting on 65 with Riley Meredith (19 not out) for the last wicket to get Australia's second string up to 122 from a shambolic 57-9.

Veteran seamer Khan was the star of the show as Pakistan dominated the penultimate day of the pink ball contest at Perth Stadium, closing on 7-0 with a lead of 313.

The tourists were a bowler down after 16-year-old Naseem Shah was withdrawn following the death of his mother.

Australia and Pakistan start the two-match Test series at the Gabba on November 21.

Recalled Australia opener Marcus Harris lasted only a dozen balls as Jofra Archer struck early in the third Test, but the rain returned at Headingley and forced the players off after four overs.

Showers initially postponed the toss and came back shortly after Joe Root had inserted Australia under gloomy skies in Leeds, meaning play did not start until 12:10 local time (11:10 GMT), a delay of 80 minutes.

Root's decision to try to take advantage of the day-one conditions looked wise when an out-of-sorts David Warner played and missed at a series of deliveries from his recent nemesis Stuart Broad, but it was Archer who claimed the first wicket, Harris nicking behind when on eight with the final ball of the fourth over.

Both Warner and the England players followed Harris back in, though, as the rain fell and the covers were brought on with Australia 12-1 as lunch was taken at 12:45 local time.

Harris had been restored to the XI for Cameron Bancroft in one of three changes made by Australia, with Steve Smith – missing following a bout of concussion – and Peter Siddle also replaced by Marnus Labuschagne and James Pattinson.

England, 1-0 down in the five-match series after Australia's win at Edgbaston was followed by a drawn Test at Lord's, were unchanged as opener Jason Roy was passed fit after suffering a blow to the helmet in the nets on Tuesday.

Australia opener Cameron Bancroft was dropped for Marcus Harris at Headingley while Jason Roy was declared fit for an unchanged England, who opted to field first in the third Ashes Test.

Tim Paine's team, 1-0 up in the five-match series after their victory at Edgbaston was followed by a drawn Test at Lord's, made three changes to their XI.

One was enforced as Steve Smith was ruled out on Tuesday following a bout of concussion, and Marnus Labuschagne, his replacement during the game at Lord's, came into the team from the start in Leeds.

The tourists also chose to replace opener Bancroft with Harris and bring in seamer James Pattinson – who featured at Edgbaston – for Peter Siddle.

England had concerns over Roy's availability after he suffered a blow to the helmet in the nets on Tuesday, but he was declared fine to feature following concussion tests.

The toss was put back by 40 minutes due to drizzle on a dull morning and though play was due to commence at 11:20 local time (10:20 GMT), further rain brought the covers back on and delayed the start.

Australia were dealt a huge Ashes blow on Tuesday when Steve Smith was ruled out of the third Test at Headingley.

Smith has been in quite incredible form in England, with knocks of 144 and 142 at Edgbaston as the tourists took a 1-0 lead, before following up with 92 at Lord's.

But with Smith suffering a concussion at the Home of Cricket, Australia could only battle bravely to a draw and the series remains tantalisingly in the balance.

Smith is not fit to feature in Leeds and England will understandably be eager to take on a batting order missing its brightest star.

Who could step up for Australia and prove they are not a one-man show? We take a look.

 

DAVID WARNER

Warner, like Smith, is playing Test cricket for the first time since a 12-month ban for his involvement in the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa last year.

But unlike Smith, the former vice-captain has performed dismally, failing to rediscover the form that made him one of the world's best openers.

The 32-year-old has a career Test average of 46.9, but he has yet to manage double-figures across four innings in this series.

Hugely underwhelming efforts of two, eight, three and five have seen him depart three times to Stuart Broad, before Jofra Archer got him on day five at Lord's.

Without the security of Smith at number four, Warner simply must be better.

 

CAMERON BANCROFT

It says much for Smith's sensational form that Australia lead the series, away from home, despite neither of their openers firing.

Warner has been dismal with the bat, but Bancroft - another back in the Test fold following suspension - has fared little better.

Bancroft has a far more modest reputation than Warner, but he has the talent to perform at a far higher level than he has shown in the past two matches.

The 26-year-old was in excellent form for Durham while his team-mates were in Cricket World Cup action, yet that has not translated to the Test scene.

Knocks of 13 and 16 at Lord's were poor and yet considerable improvements on eight and seven at Edgbaston.

 

TIM PAINE

Paine might be the captain in name, but his leadership qualities have been questioned with Smith, the former skipper, back in the mix.

However, with Smith out, Paine must step up in more ways than one. Leading by example with the bat would certainly be a good start.

While Smith has been smashing centuries, Paine has mustered just 66 in total across four knocks.

His poorest total of all so far (four in the second innings at Lord's) came when Australia needed their captain most, digging in to reach the end of the day - even if Joe Denly took a remarkable catch.

There will be more pressure in the third Test, where England will have their tails up, and Paine must step up this time.

 

SOMEONE ELSE...

It was Smith's direct replacement Marnus Labuschagne, the concussion substitute, who stepped up in his absence at Lord's, contributing a vital 100-ball 59.

Labuschagne will surely get the opportunity to impress again in Leeds, but Australia really should have enough batting talent in their ranks without needing to call on a deputy.

Usman Khawaja (career average 41.4) has made 13, 40, 36 and two. Travis Head (49.9) has been slightly better with 35, 51, seven and a brave unbeaten 42. Both could improve.

Matthew Wade's series has been ludicrously inconsistent: one, 110, six and one. More single-figures will be damaging next time out.

There are plenty of men capable of stepping into the void, but that might be easier said than done when Smith is gone and Jofra Archer is hitting his stride.

Steve Waugh says Australia must stand by opener Cameron Bancroft "for the long term" despite his tough start to the Ashes.

Bancroft's first three knocks of the series in England have returned eight, seven and 13, while he was the victim of Jofra Archer's maiden Test wicket at Lord's on Friday.

Fellow opener David Warner has also struggled so far, contributing two, eight and three, even though Australia thrashed England in the first match at Edgbaston.

Bancroft, Warner and star man Steve Smith - who made two centuries in Birmingham - are all playing Test cricket for the first time since bans for their role in the team's ball-tampering scandal in South Africa last year.

It is Bancroft, 26, whose position is being questioned at this stage, but Waugh, the team's mentor, is preaching faith in the Durham captain.

"I thought Bancroft hung in there pretty well," Waugh said after Australia ended a rain-affected third day on 80-4 in their first innings, 178 runs behind.

"He just needed to spend another half-hour there, get a few more balls away out of the middle and he would have been right.

"It's a fine line. You can analyse and scrutinise players but that's Test match cricket. Sometimes you are going to miss out. If you pick a guy, you back him for the long term and, right now, we are confident those guys are going to bounce back.

"[Bancroft and Warner] both want to get a lot more runs obviously, but Test match cricket is tough. It's challenging and the conditions over here are not easy for batting.

"It's not as if the ball is coming on and you can play a big cover drive. You have to work really hard for every run.

"And both bowling attacks are world class. You are up against some really quality bowlers who have taken a lot of wickets, have a lot of experience and a lot of know-how, and you've got to work hard for your runs."

In a further defence of Bancroft, Waugh added: "Cameron's preparation for this Test was excellent. He looked really good in the nets and he's pretty relaxed at the moment.

"He'd like some more runs but I am backing him to do well. He's a thoroughly professional cricketer, a nice, decent guy who works hard at his game.

"He's dedicated and he's disappointed he missed out, but he's the sort of cricketer who's tough and he'll come back."

Australia completed a resounding 251-run victory on day five to seal the opening Ashes Test as Nathan Lyon tormented sorry England with a sublime six-for at Edgbaston.

The heroics of centurions Steve Smith and Matthew Wade a day previous set England a near-impossible 398 target and their only realistic chance of avoiding defeat was to bat out the day for a draw.

But predictions that a wearing day-five pitch would be suited to the spinning skills of Lyon bore fruit and he finished with 6-49, becoming the fourth Australian to rack up 350 Test wickets in the process.

Pat Cummins added 4-32 and now has 100 Test wickets as England played like the proverbial deer in the headlights to fall behind in the five-match series.

The inquest will now begin for England, who had Australia at 122-8 in the first innings before the first of Smith's centuries brought the tourists back into the match.

Even still, England held a 90-run lead heading into the second innings but their inability to remove Smith proved costly in an enthralling contest and the Australians now have the psychological edge with their star batsman in phenomenal form.

Tim Paine's side head to Lord's with a 1-0 lead having ended an 18-year wait for an Edgbaston win in any format, while it marks just England's second defeat in 15 Test matches at the venue.

England would have been relatively content with the opening hour despite the loss of first-innings centurion Rory Burns (11) when a short one from Cummins was gloved to Lyon at gully.

Jason Roy (28) and Joe Root made 41 for the second wicket, only for the former to make a complete hash of attacking a Lyon delivery that turned through the gap.

Lyon quickly added Joe Denly (11), who wastefully reviewed when there was clearly a nick on a looped one to Cameron Bancroft at short leg, and the same combination snared the crucial wicket of Root – who England really needed to bat most of the day – with the fielder snaffling a sharp take.

It left England 85-4 by lunch and the situation did not improve in the afternoon session, Cummins ripping up Jos Buttler's off stump before Jonny Bairstow gloved the same man to the slips.

When Ben Stokes edged Lyon behind to gleeful Australia captain Paine the writing was on the wall.

Chris Woakes tried to delay the inevitable with an enterprising 37, but the out-of-sorts Moeen Ali and Stuart Broad had no answer to Lyon and Cummins accounted for Woakes with a short delivery to bring an end to proceedings.


LYON ROARS INTO ELITE AUSSIE CLUB

Lyon joined an elite club when it comes to Test scalps for Australia - only Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Dennis Lillee have also made it to 350.

All the focus pre-match was on the tourists' pace attack and which options they may use to try and cut down England. While the trio selected played their part throughout the Test, it was instead the one frontline spin bowler who was left to take centre stage on a worn surface.


STICK OR TWIST? NEITHER HELP OUT ENGLAND

The home side must be wondering where it all went wrong, having reduced Australia to 122-8 on the opening day. Coming to the ground on Monday, they always faced a tough order to survive and keep the series level heading to Lord's.

Their top-order batsmen attempted different methods to cope with Lyon, though none worked for a sustained period. Roy's adventurous march down the pitch will draw criticism, but even the reliable Root succumbed when choosing the more defensive approach. With issues over the form and fitness of key players, England's selectors have plenty to ponder in the break between games.


MOMENT OF THE DAY

The longevity of Root's innings was always likely to be crucial to England's chances of survival. But the skipper was sent on his way after a fine pouch by Bancroft shortly before lunch. Had Root managed to hold on England may have still maintained some hope of a draw, but Australia's celebrations told a story in itself.


KEY OPTA FACTS:

- Lyon has become only the seventh spinner ever to record 350 Test wickets.
- Cummins has now taken 100 Test wickets (21 matches); no Australian bowler has got there faster since 1937 (Bill O'Reilly - 20).
- No bowler has dismissed Root more often in Tests than Lyon (five).
- Denly has scored more than 23 just once in eight Test innings for England.
- Buttler has failed to score more than five runs in four of his eight Test innings in 2019.

Nathan Lyon struck three times as Australia boosted their chances of victory in the first Ashes Test by reducing England to 85-4 by lunch on day five.

The hosts resumed at Edgbaston on 13-0 chasing an unlikely 398 in the fourth innings, with a more realistic aim being to bat out the day to salvage a draw.

However, their survival hopes were hurt when they lost first-innings centurion Rory Burns for 11, the opener getting into a terrible tangle when trying to deal with a short delivery from Pat Cummins, leading to the ball taking the glove and looping kindly to Lyon at gully.

Captain Joe Root joined Jason Roy (28) and the pair added 41 for the second wicket before the latter perished trying to take the positive approach to Lyon, the ball turning through the gap between bat and pad to hit middle stump after he had given the off-spinner the charge.

Lyon then combined with Cameron Bancroft to dismiss Joe Denly (11) and Root before the interval, both right-handers pouched at short leg following inside edges.

Root had twice used the review system to overturn lbw decisions given by umpire Joel Wilson, though there was no doubt over his dismissal as Bancroft snared a sharp chance straight off the bat to send England's skipper on his way for 28.

Jos Buttler ended the session unbeaten on one with Ben Stokes still yet to get off the mark, the pair facing a monumental task as England aim to avoid falling 1-0 behind in the five-match series.

Stuart Broad claimed two wickets before Australia recovered from a shaky start to reach 83-3 on the first morning of the Ashes.

Touring captain Tim Paine won the toss and opted to bat in the opening Test at Edgbaston, but his side were soon in trouble as the vastly experienced new-ball pairing of Broad and James Anderson started superbly, extracting seam movement to regularly beat the bat.

Broad, bowling notably fuller and posing a continued threat, removed openers David Warner and Cameron Bancroft for two and eight respectively in a superb first spell.

Australia also lost Usman Khawaja to Chris Woakes prior to lunch, but Steve Smith (23 not out) held firm in his first Test innings since he was suspended for his role in last year's ball-tampering scandal and Travis Head provided some much-needed impetus in reaching 26 not out.

Anderson - a fitness doubt ahead of this match - did not bowl again in the morning after an opening four-over burst that yielded figures of 0-1. He briefly left the field after that spell, although it was not clear whether his lack of overs prior to lunch was due to an injury scare or cautious management of the 37-year-old's workload.

Warner's brief innings was certainly not short of incident. Firstly, he was given a life on one when an edge down the leg side off Broad went unnoticed and England failed to call for a review.

In Broad's next over, England wasted a review after umpire Aleem Dar correctly turned down an lbw appeal. Broad did trap Warner in front four balls later, but replays showed the full-pitched delivery would have missed leg stump, meaning the batsman should have sent the decision upstairs.

Warner's dismissal was predictably greeted with jubilation by sandpaper-waving fans eager to remind the opener of his Cape Town ball-tampering shame.

Bancroft, representing Australia for the first time since that saga, soon became a second victim for Broad, edging to Joe Root at first slip having been squared up by one that left him.

A successful review from England then accounted for Khawaja, who got the faintest of edges to a Woakes delivery.

However, Smith would not be shifted and Head, after beginning his innings with 15 dot balls, scored freely to lift the pressure on Australia, who opted to leave out Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood on a day when showers were forecast in the afternoon.

Cameron Bancroft's return to the Australia line-up for the opening Ashes Test against England would be a great story, according to Justin Langer.

Bancroft has been named in Australia's squad for the match at Edgbaston on Thursday, his first international involvement since serving a nine-month suspension for his role in the ball-tampering incident in Cape Town in March 2018.

David Warner and Steve Smith were also banned from all forms for 12 months but returned to help Australia to the Cricket World Cup semi-finals.

Langer confirmed on Tuesday Warner will be fit to feature in Birmingham despite suffering a bruised thigh in Monday's training session.

It is not yet clear who will partner Australia's former vice-captain at the top of the order, but Langer is delighted to have Bancroft, who scored an impressive unbeaten 93 in an intra-squad warm-up at the Rose Bowl last week, back in the fold.

"He's close. He's very close," Langer told a news conference. "He's one of two openers we could pick I reckon.

"It'd be a great story. If he comes back in the team it'll be a really great story, from where he's come from.

"I think his learnings over the last 14 months – he's gone away and played really good [Sheffield] Shield cricket, he's averaged 57 or 58 at the back end of the Shield season.

"He's averaged 40-odd for Durham, he played really well last week, he brings energy to the team.

"His development over the last 12 months after what happened in Cape Town has been absolutely extraordinary. We're that proud of him so if he gets the nod he'll be very excited about playing for Australia again."

Smith and Warner received hostile receptions from the English crowd at the World Cup, and though Langer is not expecting Bancroft to get a warm welcome, he believes it is nothing out of the ordinary heading into an Ashes series.

"I know what the reception is going to be, I think we all do," Langer continued. 

"There's nothing we can do about that, it's 100 per cent out of our control, it's out of their control and there's nothing we can do about it.

"We've been to lots of Ashes series, and England are the same when they come to Australia, it's really tough. That's the environment we're in.

"You go to Cape Town, go to Johannesburg – it's like being in the Gladiator movie!"

England and Australia will spend the next seven weeks as fierce rivals with the Ashes on the line.

The return from suspension of three Australia star batsmen means the visitors are back up to full strength as they chase a first Test series win in England for 18 years.

The triumphant 2001 side was loaded with all-time greats including Steve and Mark Waugh, Shane Warne, Ricky Ponting, Glenn McGrath and Adam Gilchrist.

Few of the England team of the day would have earned a place in Australia's side, such was the absurd strength of the tourists' squad.

However, the gap has closed considerably in the years since, and merging the teams for a combined Ashes XI in 2019 would test the judgment of any selector.

Here is a look at how such a team might look, with grovelling apologies to the strong contenders who missed the cut.


Cameron Bancroft (Australia)

Edgbaston will have a welcome waiting for the man who used sandpaper to tamper with the ball during Australia's Test with South Africa at Newlands last year. Bancroft has the runs for Durham this year to justify his return to Australia's ranks on form, even if many might feel uneasy about his presence after serving a nine-month ban. It could be touch and go whether he opens or bats in the middle order, but he gets the nod for this XI on the basis of England being in an opener crisis.

David Warner (Australia)

The brains behind the Newlands plot is also back in the Test arena. Warner is a mighty batsman, and nobody would question his ability. He comes into the Ashes off a fine World Cup performance, and his wicket will be a prized one within the England ranks. Described in one newspaper verdict of sandpapergate as "the most hated man in cricket", Warner is the man the home crowds would love to see fail, even if privately they would happily have him on their side.

Steve Smith (Australia)

Culled as captain, and banned along with Warner for a year, Smith did nothing to prevent Bancroft and Warner's actions and he will be braced for a barrage of flak during the Ashes. He has the batting chops and the temperament to handle sledging from the stands, however. Smith is the finest middle-order batsman of his generation, a rock of Australia's team and, past mistakes notwithstanding, a de facto leader.

Joe Root (England, captain)

If questions are asked of England's batting line-up, England's skipper usually finds an answer. He may need to provide the glue to bond together several unstable innings over the coming weeks, and there are few more accomplished anchor batsmen in world cricket. His team are the bookmakers' favourites to take the urn, with Root's contribution expected to be pivotal.

Jonny Bairstow (England)

A galvanising force behind England's glorious World Cup campaign, Bairstow has produced worrisome form in the longest format and went for a pair against Ireland. He averages 25.83 in 10 Tests over the past 12 months, dragging down his overall batting average. The Ashes might bring the best out of the Yorkshireman.

Ben Stokes (England)

Stokes will hope to enjoy August 2019 more than August 2018, when he faced the stress of a crown court trial on a charge of affray. Stokes cleared his name and has moved on, reinstated for the Ashes as England's vice-captain and hailed a national hero after his World Cup exploits. Many have crumbled in the face of comparisons to Ian Botham but Stokes thrives on the all-rounder role and could far surpass Beefy's achievements before his career is out. A man who seems made for an Ashes series.

Jos Buttler (England, wicketkeeper)

Tim Paine captains Australia, as well as keeping wicket, because in both senses he is considered a safe pair of hands. But Buttler gets the stumps role here, his explosive batting a tremendous complement to his skill with the gloves. Buttler has come on as a Test cricketer in the last year, as well as being a key component of the white-ball team that many expect him to captain before long. He gives back the Test vice-captaincy to Stokes for this series, but is unlikely to mind.

Pat Cummins (Australia)

Rated by the ICC as the world's number one bowler, Cummins has taken wickets at a prolific rate over the past couple of years. He would earn his place on that basis alone, but Cummins can bat too and made three scores in the forties in the last Ashes series. Years of injury woe are behind him, with the tall paceman capable of wreaking havoc in this series.

Jofra Archer (England)

Here's the wild card. Archer is launching his Test career in the Ashes but has already demonstrated he is a swimmer when tossed in at the deep end. The Barbados-born fast bowler enjoyed a terrific World Cup, defying a painful side strain to emerge as a star of the tournament. The 24-year-old looks like the man England have been waiting for, as the established Anderson-Broad axis enters its twilight days. He should thrive, and play in many of these series.

Nathan Lyon (Australia)

England have worries in the spin department when it comes to Tests, with neither Moeen Ali nor Adil Rashid establishing themselves as reliable wicket-taking slow bowlers at this level. Lyon's average is comfortably better than both England men, and with 86 Tests behind him the one-time Adelaide Oval groundsman has come a long way in the game. He has pouched 343 Test wickets and, regardless of conditions that should favour the seamers, will fancy taking more victims on this tour. A shoo-in for an Ashes dream team.

James Anderson (England)

This will be an Ashes farewell, surely, for Anderson. Few would doubt his capacity to go out in style, with the 37-year-old bidding to add to 575 Test wickets, 104 of which have accounted for Australians. He has succeeded McGrath as the preeminent paceman in the ongoing story of the Ashes, with few seamers capable of matching the craft of the man from Burnley. A late-summer Ashes, after the British heatwave, with plenty of cloud cover likely, could have been designed for Anderson.

Durham have announced the signing of Australia international Peter Handscomb for the remainder of the English domestic season.

The wicketkeeper-batsman - who has represented his country in all three formats - missed out on selection for the Ashes squad but will now remain in England.

Handscomb fills the overseas spot at Durham vacated by compatriot Cameron Bancroft, who was picked in Australia's 17-man party for the five-Test series.

"We are delighted to welcome Peter to Durham for the rest of the season," Marcus North, director of cricket at Durham, said.

"Peter is a well-known player across all formats of the game, so it is a great to be welcoming him to Chester-le-Street.

"He has proven he can score runs having excelled for Victoria in their domestic competition, so we are pleased to have him joining us at Durham."

Australia chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns has praised Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft for earning their Ashes places on merit.

Former captain Smith, Warner and Bancroft are all part of the 17-man party for the five-Test series against England after serving bans for their part in the ball-tampering scandal that engulfed Australian cricket last year.

Warner and Smith featured throughout Australia's run to the World Cup semi-finals, where they lost to eventual winners England, whereas Bancroft has the opportunity to represent his country for the first time since his nine-month suspension.

The opening batsman impressed in English conditions with Durham this season, scoring two centuries and three fifties as part of an average of 45.37 in County Championship Division Two, while his 93 in Australia's warm-up match this week also decisively caught Hohns' eye.

"David Warner, Steve Smith and Cameron Bancroft have forced their way back into the Test squad through the excellence of their recent performances," he said.

"David and Steve also have the advantage of being proven players at Test level, while Cameron has produced impressive numbers for county side Durham this season. His innings in the intra-squad match in Southampton on a tough pitch was outstanding and showed his quality."

Bancroft will contest a place at the top of the order for next week's series opener at Edgbaston, with Joe Burns omitted despite scoring 180 in Australia's previous Test against Sri Lanka, but the tourists' true strength comes in the seam-bowling department.

Pat Cummins tops the Test rankings, while Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazelwood are joined by James Pattinson and Peter Siddle.

Ashes veteran Siddle's maiden tour of England came a decade ago, while his Victoria colleague Pattinson is back in the Test fold for the first time since 2016 – persistent injury woes forcing the paceman to undergo back surgery a year later.

"James Pattinson has demanded inclusion after impressing everyone on the Australia A tour with his pace and control, following on from a good season at home for Victoria," Hohns said.

The focus on pace comes at the expense of spin specialists, with Nathan Lyon the lone representative in that regard, although Hohns expects middle-order batsman Marnus Labuschagne to pick up some of the slack if required.

"We have faith in [Lyon's] ability, we know our strength lies in our pace attack and we have Marnus Labuschagne's leg spin as another spin option," Hohns said.

"He has bowled almost 200 overs for county side Glamorgan in first-class cricket this season."

Hohns added: "We have not won an Ashes series in the United Kingdom since 2001 but we are confident that this group of players can break that cycle and ensure we retain the urn that we won at home in the summer of 2017-18."

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