Australia go into the second and deciding Test against Bangladesh needing a win to level the series, but also with one eye on the Ashes.
It’s no secret that Australia have struggled in Asia of late, in fact, Australian teams have always struggled in Asia - the only continent in which Australia has lost more matches than won. Not being able to play spin isn’t a new thing and it won’t be something that will impact Australia in the Ashes in a few months time.
While the players must focus on levelling the series this week, it’s likely that they’ll have thoughts of the Ashes at the back of their minds.
The team that lines up at the Gabba in November is more or less decided, regardless of the result in Chittagong. The top five, barring injury, is expected to be the same as the one that finished last year’s summer strongly. Warner, Renshaw, Khawaja, Smith and Handscomb.
Australia has strength in depth in the fast bowling department with Cummins, Starc, Hazlewood and Pattinson the first choice quicks. That the latter three are injured isn’t the end of the world as both Bird and Sayers - when finally given a debut - would make up part of a formidable attack. Lyon is first choice spinner and will play unless there is a desire for four quicks at any point.
The only two positions that are genuinely up for grabs are at six and seven. Australia want a genuine allrounder to bat at six and Cartwright is the favourite at present. Although he is a batsmen who can bowl a bit rather than a genuine allrounder, a first class average of 52.07 - including four centuries in 22 matches - means that he should be in the side as a batsmen anyway.
Wicketkeeper is the position under most scrutiny. Wade was brought back for Nevill last year and has underwhelmed with the bat, averaging only 21.25 and passing 50 just once. It’s widely accepted that Nevill is the better keeper and if Wade is dropped, he’ll come back into the side.
There is talk that Handscomb could take the gloves in the decider against Bangladesh but it would only be a stop gap measure. There is talk that Khawaja will be dropped but it would only dent his confidence further as he will bat at three in the Ashes, given his strong form at home. Maxwell would be under pressure to cement his place at six but even a century in Bangladesh is unlikely to mean selection in the Ashes as he isn’t a fast bowling allrounder, which is what the selectors really want, and have done since Flintoff demonised Australia in 2005 and 2009.
If Australia fail to level the series, it won’t have much impact on the Ashes. Asia has always been a difficult place for Australia to play. The players know exactly what to expect at home. They also know that England have problems of their own.