AUSTRALIA’S Ashes fast bowling line-up appears close to settled, providing injuries don’t get in the way between now and July.
Sydney man-of-the-match Jackson Bird has stormed into the reckoning after just two Tests, with his accuracy and movement seen as perfect for English conditions.
Australia selectors are likely to send around six quicks with them to England, if the 2009 squad is anything to go by.
However the new rotation system lends itself to taking an even larger pool of seamers, particularly if Mitchell Johnson is considered an allrounder.
Young tearaway Pat Cummins would be well and truly in the frame for a shock call-up after two years out injured if the squad is slightly bigger.
Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc, Johnson, Bird and a recovered James Pattinson (side strain) are set to be the bowling arsenal for next month’s India tour.
Allowing for injuries or form slumps, the same five will also be the core of the Ashes squad.
Australia coach Mickey Arthur said 26-year-old Bird, who took seven wickets against Sri Lanka at the SCG, would be up to handling sub-continent conditions.
“We’ve got such a wealth of bowling talent in Australia and Jackson’s just a reminder of that,” said Arthur.
“It’s given us a pool of fast bowlers that we can call on that we know have the ability to play at this level and perform. I think that’s really important for us.
“Jackson’s stocks have risen considerably.”
One Test wonder Cummins won’t play any first-class cricket before the Ashes, as the express bowler continues to recover from a back injury.
Cummins’ inclusion in the Ashes squad would be based on potential alone.
Others in the reckoning include Josh Hazlewood and Ben Hilfenhaus – although Hilfenhaus may have been overtaken by Bird.
One bowler nearly certain of going to England is spinner Nathan Lyon.
Despite his indifferent form this summer, Lyon has support in all the right places.
He was trusted with taking over as the custodian of the team song by retiring great Mike Hussey. Captain Michael Clarke and coach Arthur also have plenty of time for the 25-year-old offspinner.
“With the state of where we’re at as a team I don’t think anybody can say they’re entrenched. But I’m a massive believer in Nathan, and Michael is too,” said Arthur.
“We think he’s got all the right attributes of being a really good finger spinner. We’ve just got to keep working and he’ll just keep being exposed to situations.”
By Laine Clark