Published on: Apr 24, 2023
This summer’s Ashes series is fast approaching and the magnifying glass is fixed firmly on Australia’s selectors regarding their picks for opening batters. Who they opt for to open the batting could have a significant bearing on the outcome of the series. Already the bookmakers are favouring England to regain the Ashes on home soil. England are set to start the series as 5/6 odds-on favourites with Paddy Power. This operator is one of the most recognisable in the UK sports betting market, not only for its marketing campaigns but the depth of its betting markets and the competitiveness of its promotions for first-time users. Most bookmakers now have England odds-on to win this summer’s Ashes, but their chances may hinge on the decisions taken by Australia’s selectors.
If the team sticks with veteran opener, David Warner, they could be made to rue that decision. That’s the view of many pundits, particularly given the recent form of Australia A opener, Matthew Renshaw, who has been in amongst the runs in recent weeks. Renshaw hit 140 in an A team clash with New Zealand A in Lincoln. The contest was designed to replicate weather conditions on English soil and Renshaw showed tremendous patience to help the touring side to 297/5.
A look at the prospects vying to take Warner’s opening batter role in the Ashes
Warner, who has 103 caps for the Australian Test match team, is drinking in the last chance saloon. He is hoping to be selected for the World Test Championship final in June against India, which is expected to be his dress rehearsal for this summer’s Ashes. If he fails to impress, the likes of Renshaw are almost certain to come into the equation for the first Test at Edgbaston.
Renshaw struggled on the spinning pitches of India but has responded in positive fashion for the Australia A side since returning home. These A team games in New Zealand offer the most similar weather and pitch conditions to England and back-to-back hundreds has certainly put Renshaw back on the selectors’ radar.
It’s also worth noting that Marcus Harris is also showing signs of hitting himself into form ahead of the Ashes. Harris, who was handed an Australian central contract ahead of Renshaw, has already notched a 50 and a century in the colours of Gloucestershire in the English County Championship. Peter Handscomb has also started to find some form on English soil. After signing for Leicestershire, Handscomb notched a first-inning century against Yorkshire, followed by an unbeaten 68 to help Leicestershire to victory at Headingley.
Renshaw’s form will be at the forefront of the selectors’ minds, although so too will be his scores of nought, two and two in the subcontinent earlier this year. It’s possible that Renshaw will be considered to play further up the order in England than his middle order berth in India. He has certainly displayed a maturity beyond his years in recent weeks in New Zealand and it’s that composure and concentration which could prove invaluable in the Ashes, against the likes of James Anderson and Stuart Broad in their favoured bowling conditions.
Batting in England is like kryptonite to David Warner
As for David Warner, based on his medium-term form, his place on the plane to England must surely be in jeopardy. With an average of just 29.48 in the last three years – buoyed largely by a single double century against South Africa last summer – Warner has done little to warrant selection.
The fact this Ashes series is in England must also count against Warner. It’s a country that’s never been kind to him from a form perspective, averaging just 26.04 in 25 innings on English soil. At the time of the announcement of the latest Australian central contracts, chief selector, George Bailey, admitted that Warner is “at the mercy of selection” like all other players in the squad. Bailey added that no centrally contracted player is guaranteed to start in the first Test. Unless the selectors continue to show blind faith in Warner shining bright out of nowhere, this could be the end of the road for Warner’s Test career.