Australia are still considering their options at the top of the order ahead of the fourth Ashes Test against England, says chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns.
The tourists were pegged back in the third match at Headingley as Ben Stokes’ history-making innings levelled the series at 1-1 heading into the fourth Test at Old Trafford.
Australia had already been forced into changes in their batting line-up due to Steve Smith’s absence with concussion, while opener Cameron Bancroft was dropped in Leeds following a tough start to the series.
Smith will come back in for the next match but it appears unlikely he will be the only returning face, although Marnus Labuschagne will likely be retained after impressing in the former captain’s absence.
A tour match victory over Derbyshire – secured on Saturday by an innings and 54 runs – increased Australia’s options as Mitchell Marsh, batting at number three, made 74.
Hohns said: “This game has given us a lot more options. We’ll get to Manchester, hopefully have a look at the pitch, and go through what options we do have – and they are plenty.
“There are a couple of headaches there, but nice headaches, of course, and the important thing is that we come up with a balanced team now to win this next Test match.
“The area up the top is not so much concerning but it’s been difficult for both teams at the top of the order. That’s an area we’ll certainly be looking at.
“Mitchell Marsh has given us a good option today. All players are in contention.”
A few autographs to end a solid few days in Derby for the Aussies.
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Matthew Wade would appear to be at risk, having failed to build on his 110 in the Ashes opener at Edgbaston with three single-figure dismissals since.
“He played very well that innings he made a hundred,” Hohns said. “Unfortunately things have not quite gone his way since then. That will certainly be an area we are having a look at.”
Labuschagne is also a “prime contender”, Hohns acknowledged, having impressed since becoming Smith’s concussion substitute and making history in the process.
The selector would not rule out bowling changes either, even if Nathan Lyon is “no doubt at all” after giving Australia a scare by twisting his ankle in a training game of touch rugby.
Mitchell Starc – who took 3-46 and 4-39 against Derbyshire – is an obvious candidate to come into the side having sat out the first three Tests, with Hohns adding: “He’s certainly given us a good option there.
“We’ll have a look at the pitch, of course, and we have heard that it is renowned for being possibly the quickest in the country. That will all be taken into account.
“Right from the start of the tour it was made very clear what was expected of our bowlers and where we wanted them to bowl.
“Mitchell has taken all that on board and he was worked very, very hard to improve his game in that area.
“We all know he is an aggressor, so we can’t expect him to change the way he bowls too much. But he is doing everything he possibly can to bowl in the right areas and the right channels.”
Derbyshire started Saturday’s play on 53-3 and were skittled for 112, with Marsh (2-5) and Peter Siddle (2-21) joining Starc in the wickets.