It’s the jewel in the crown, the cherry on top of the cake, it’s the Ashes and with news of a resolution in the pay dispute between Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketer’s Association dominating the news cycle, it’s worth looking ahead to the summer and the Ashes series that appears to have been salvaged on the back of the agreement.
Since 1882/83 the two traditional foes, Australia and England have matched wits, willow and words in some of the more epic and memorable clashes on cricket’s grandest stages and the 2017/18 series promises more of the same.
1 David Warner
The sort of player that picks himself simply with his ability to take a game away from the opposition inside a session's worth of play, David Warner is the easy option to open the batting for Australia come the first Test.
Someone like David Warner is going to stand up and take the fight to the old enemy and that's exactly what we want when the going gets tough, particularly on home soil where the pitches and conditions should favour his dynamic strokeplay.
2 Matt Renshaw
I'm a self-confessed Matt Renshaw fan and I can't see any reason he won't be the long-term opener for Australia.
The perfect 'odd-couple' style partner for Warner at the top of the order, Renshaw has the ability to dig in and prize his wicket above the flashy strokes and aggression that some of his peers opt to go with from time to time.
Had a decent start to his Test career last summer, but really came of age as a battler on the sub-continent against India despite his bowel-related issues during a Test.
3 Usman Khawaja
Lost his place during the tour to India with Shaun Marsh preferred as a 'sub-continent specialist' but for mine Khawaja is the man at number three.
Uzzie shows a good composure and the right temperament to either come in at the loss of an early wicket or with his side cruising with 200 runs on the board and he has the ability to grind out big scores, which is exactly what you want from a first drop.
4 Steve Smith (captain)
Another no-brainer, Steve Smith is the best batsman Australia has to offer and one of the very best in the world and he's the leader of this current crop of stars under the Baggy Green.
Smith is capable of plundering runs at a tremendous clip and can rack up big scores such is his drive and mesmerizing, if not a little unorthodox approach at the crease and his form will go a long way to dictating the flow of the series.
Steve Smith offers Australia the closest thing they have to a modern Bradman, a forceful, driven leader who sets the tone with blade in hand and if he fires, England will have a devil of a time trying to stop him.
5 Peter Handscomb
Peter Handscomb is another who came of age on the tour of India and while he didn't plunder as many runs as he would have liked, he's grafted his way to being as permanent a member of the middle order as one can be.
Capable with the gloves should the need arise, Handscomb is another batsman who possess a great temperament and the ability to craft an innings of substance and style, especially while under fire which bodes well for some battles against a hardened English seam attack.
6 Hilton Cartwright
My wild card.
We all know the selectors love a strapping, tall all-rounder in the mould of a Shane Watson or Mitch Marsh and the fact they have shown some interest in Cartwright in the past suggests to me he's the sort player they'd love to thrust in to the Ashes cauldron.
The raw numbers aren't great for Cartwright in the Sheffield Shield, especially his bowling where his seamers average 44.16 but at 25, and with first class batting average in excess of 50, the tools are there and Hilton has the ability to be a difference maker at Test level.
7 Matthew Wade (wicket keeper)
Since taking over the gloves Peter Nevill, Wade has not entirely convinced me he is the right man for the gig, but at this point I can't see the selectors going back to Nevill or moving to another option.
Decent enough with the gloves, although perhaps a little sloppy at times, Wade needs to do more with the bat when Australia are under pressure down the order and show more proclivity with batting the tail in order to provide more to the team.
8 Mitchell Starc
Yet another player who picks himself on form and past deeds.
Mitchell Starc is one of the deadliest, most fearsome fast bowlers in the world right now and his pinpoint accurate yorkers, rising bouncers and searing pace make for an uncomfortable time at the crease for some of the best batsmen in the world.
Starc would have made a case for selection in some of the best teams of the past, so is an easy pick for his bowling and handylower order swinging with the bat as well.
9 Pat Cummins
This was almost a toss of the coin selection.
Pat Cummins narrowly won out over James Pattinson for mine, but as often for the pair, the final call will come down to fitness and availability.
When fit, Cummins has proven consistently quick and a capable third-string seamer behind Starc and Hazelwood and while his better bowling performances have generally come with the white ball, like most I still hold out hope for him to be the next in a long line of dangerous quick bowlers capable of removing wickets with sheer pace and changing things up in tricky conditions.
10 Nathan Lyon
How can you go past Gazza?
For a man who is Australia's greatest off-spinner of all time, hence the tag 'goat,' so many people are quick to write Nathan Lyon off and see him on his way, but as a tweaker he's still our best option.
He could have a spin-bowling company in Sydney, with Ashton Agar touring Bangladesh and obviously on the fringes, but he'll likely be asked to bowl long spells throughout the series in an effort to keep the seamers refreshed and jag wickets at an economical rate.
11 Josh Hazlewood
Josh Hazlewood is the bowler every team in the world needs. Capable of steaming in for long spells of quick-enough, consistently placed bowling on a good line and length, Hazelwood is the modern day Glenn McGrath of the Aussie team and his selection will be in now doubt unless an unlucky injury should strike.
Hazelwood is the bowler you build your unit around. Mitchell Starc gets more of the plaudits for his fiery pace, but he strikes on the back of pressure built by Hazelwood.
12 Glenn Maxwell (12th man)
A tricky one.
Glenn Maxwell performed well enough in India, and seems to have matured to where he can grasp the subtle nuances of the longest format much better than in his youth, but with no second spinner on most surfaces and the obvious bonus of an extra fast bowler I went for Hilton Cartwright in the XI and Maxwell to carry the beverages.
Could come in as a second spin option in Sydney or, if Cartwright struggles, the selectors may gamble on three seamers being enough and throwing Maxwell in at six as an exciting option with the bat.
With the Ashes fast approaching, who would you pick in your XI for the first Test between Australia and England? Let us know in the comments below.
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