Australia’s chairman of selectors, George Bailey, has confirmed incumbent Test opener Marcus Harris will partner David Warner at the top of Australia’s batting order in the Ashes from next month.
Harris has beaten the likes of Usman Khawaja, Will Pucovski and Nic Maddinson to retain his spot for the series against England.
“Harry’s had limited opportunities in the past, and he’s been in and out a bit, so we’d love nothing more than for him hopefully to get an opportunity to get an extended run at it,” Bailey said on radio RSN.
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Unlike all three of his aforementioned rivals, Harris has remained acclimatised to red ball cricket over the winter, having travelled to England to play for county cricket side Leicestershire when the Australian summer of 2020/21 wrapped up.
On his return for Victoria, he scored 137 runs in the second innings of the Bushrangers’ demolition of NSW at Drummoyne Oval.
He was far less prolific in his second hitout, going for only one run and a duck, but his consistency over recent years has impressed selectors.
“He’s obviously been a prolific run scorer at domestic level here, but we also love the fact he went overseas and had a great year for Leicester as well,” Bailey said.
After his masterful showing against NSW late last month, Harris insisted the Ashes had not been on his mind.
“If you look too far ahead with that stuff, you can get yourself into a bit of trouble, worrying about other people and stuff like that,” he said.
“If you just focus on the game and trying to put your team in position, that stuff takes care of itself.
“I feel like I’ve got a good body of work under my belt over the last four or five years and going and playing in England, I had a good season over there, so I’m feeling good.
“Whether it helps or not, I’m not sure.”
Question marks remain as to who will slot into fifth spot in the batting order, with Matthew Wade considered highly unlikely to feature at all in the Ashes, given he was dropped from the squad for the scrapped tour of South Africa.
Many cricket pundits thought 34-year-old Khawaja had played his last Test, but the veteran’s form at domestic level so far this summer simply cannot be ignored.
Khawaja, who has averaged 121 runs across his last three first class innings, looks a strong chance to return to the Test side after an absence of more than two years.
Travis Head, Moises Henriques and Alex Carey are among the other names to have been thrown around.
“That No. 5 spot is open, but we’re starting to get fairly close there,” Bailey said.