Spencer Johnson, a fast left-hander from South Australia, jumped on the Australian Ashes radar after being named in Australia’s 14-man squad. The team, which will embark on a tour of New Zealand in April with a mix of current members of the Test team and long-term candidates for the mid-year trials I mean a tour of England.
Peter Handscomb who is currently in Australia’s Test XI in India as well as Indian teammates Matt Renshaw and Mitchell Swepson were named but there were some notable absences as the Australian selectors decided to allow some recent Australian A and Test internationals to travel to England play in the county championship as part of their Ashes bids, instead of being withdrawn from county deals to play two four-day games in Lincoln with Dukes balls in the first two weeks of April.
Johnson, 26, has been on the managerial radar since making his first BBL season for the Brisbane Heat. He has since made his Sheffield Shield debut for South Australia and scored 6-for-87 and 7-for-47 bags in his first two first-class matches. Victoria’s young cobbler Mitchell Perry has also been rewarded for his superb form with 19 goals in his last three Shield games. Johnson and Perry are among the Stitch bowlers in the A squad, including Wes Agar, Xavier Bartlett and Joel Paris, while Swepson is the only spinner selected not to have played in the Test on the India tour. Leading goalscorers Michael Neser and Mark Steketee were not selected for Australia A as both already have a lot of experience playing in England.
The same thinking goes for leading shield scorer Cameron Bancroft and Test margin opener Marcus Harris, both of whom played in the 2019 Ashes series and remain in the Ashes selectors, thinking of discussions over Australia’s best England opener. Bancroft is in career best form, scoring four centuries for the Shield this season and six in the last 12 months, and has plundered runs in limited overs cricket for the WA and Perth Scorchers. But he has already played 34 first-class matches for England over five separate seasons. Harris has also scored two hundred points this season and is due to return to Gloucestershire in early April having scored seven first-class England centuries. Another Western Australian opener, Sam Whiteman, who was man of the match in last year’s Shield final, was also not selected as he signed a contract to play for the entire season with Northamptonshire county.
Tasmania left-back Tim Ward is set to play for New Zealand’s Australia A alongside Renshaw, with South Australia’s Henry Hunt not selected despite having been a regular for Australia A in recent years and scoring a century on the Sri Lanka tour last year. Washington DC allrounder Aaron Hardie was named after a tour with Australia A in Sri Lanka last year.
The selectors also took a long-term view of the batting group with 18-year-old Teague Wyllie from Western Australia, 20-year-old left-hander Victoria Campbell Kellaway and 24-year-old South Australian hitter Nathan McSweeney selected for the trip to learn from the experiences of Handscomb and Renshaw.
Veteran Queensland wicketkeeper Jimmy Peirson was awarded for his outstanding form at Shield level and for Australia A on last year’s Sri Lanka tour as the team’s only wicketkeeper. Josh Inglis is traveling with the Australian ODI team to India just before the New Zealand Series A, but is still highly regarded as a test candidate behind current Australian goalkeeper Alex Carey.
Chairman of the selectors, George Bailey, noted that this was an opportunity to expose the younger group to different conditions.
“We are committed to the continued development of the Australia A program and these games are specifically designed to expose these players to conditions they may not experience in Australia,” said Bailey sit.
“With Ashes this winter and a New Zealand tour early next year, this is a great opportunity for the group to perform in similar environments to these countries.
“Pete Handsomb, Matt Renshaw, Mitch Swepson and Jimmy Peirson will add experience as senior players who can pass on their knowledge of different conditions.”
The Australia A team will be led by current Australia assistant Andre Borovec. Former Sri Lankan Test batter Thilan Sameraweera will also be touring as a batting consultant alongside Scott Prestwidge who will look after the bowling group that was part of the coaching staff of the women’s Australia team during their recent World Cup triumph in South Africa.
The New Zealand tour will also be reciprocated by Australia, who will host New Zealand A for two four-day matches and three 50-year matches to be played in Australia’s northern states in September this year.
Australia The team on tour in New Zealand: Wes Agar, Xavier Bartlett, Aaron Hardie, Peter Handscomb, Spencer Johnson, Campbell Kellaway, Nathan McSweeney, Joel Paris, Mitch Perry, Jimmy Peirson, Matthew Renshaw, Mitchell Swepson, Tim Ward, Teague Wyllie