Spencer Johnson on Ashes radar after being named in Australia’s A squad

South Australia left arm fast Spencer Johnson has jumped onto Australia’s Ashes radar after being named in a 14-man Australia A squad to tour New Zealand in April alongside a mix of current Test squad members and long-term Test hopefuls with the mid-year England tour in mind.
Peter Handscomb, who is currently in Australia’s Test XI in India, as well as Indian team members Matt Renshaw and Mitchell Swepson have been named, but there were some notable absentees. The Australian selectors opted to have some recent Australia A and Test representatives go to England to play in the County Championship as part of their Ashes bids, rather than be taken out of the county deals to play two four-day matches in Lincoln with Dukes balls in the first two weeks of April.
The 26-year-old Johnson has jumped onto the selectors’ radar since playing for the Brisbane Heat in his first BBL season. He has since made his Sheffield Shield debut for South Australia, picking up sacks of 6 for 87 and 7 for 47 in his first two first-class matches. Young Victoria sailor Mitchell Perry has also been rewarded for his outstanding form with 19 wickets in his last three Shield matches.

Johnson and Perry are part of a bevy of seam bowlers in the A-squad, including Wes Agar, Xavier Bartlett and Joel Paris, while Swepson is the only select spinner who has not played a Test on the India tour. Leading Shield wicket-takers Michael Neser and Mark Steketee have not been selected for Australia A as both already have extensive experience playing in England.

The same thinking applies to leading Shield run scorer Cameron Bancroft and fringe Test opener Marcus Harris, who both played in the 2019 Ashes series and remain in the Ashes thinking of the selectors with debates over what is Australia’s best opening combination in could be England.

Bancroft is in his career best form with four Shield centuries this season and six in the last 12 months, as well as plundered runs in limited-overs cricket for WA and Perth Scorchers. But he has already made 34 first-class appearances there in England over five separate seasons. Harris has also scored two Shield hundreds this season and will return to Gloucestershire in early April, having scored seven first-class centuries in England.

Another Western Australian opener, Sam Whiteman, who was player of the match in last year’s Shield final, has also not been selected as he has signed to play the full county season with Northamptonshire.
Tasmania’s southpaw Tim Ward will open alongside Renshaw for Australia A in New Zealand, with South Australia’s Henry Hunt not selected despite being a regular in Australia A in recent years and scoring a century on tour last year through Sri Lanka. WA all-rounder Aaron Hardie has been named after he toured Sri Lanka with Australia A last year.
The selectors also have a long-term vision with the batting group with 18-year-old West Australian Teague Wyllie, 20-year-old Victoria southpaw Campbell Kellaway and 24-year-old South Australian batsman Nathan McSweeney selected for the tour to learn from alongside the experience of Handscomb and Renshaw.
Veteran Queensland wicketkeeper Jimmy Peirson has been rewarded for his outstanding form at Shield level and for Australia A on last year’s tour of Sri Lanka, being named as the side’s sole wicketkeeper. Josh Inglis is touring with the ODI team from Australia to India just ahead of New Zealand’s A Series but is still highly regarded as a Test contender behind incumbent Australian wicketkeeper Alex Carey.

The chairman of selectors, George Bailey, noted that it was an opportunity to expose a younger group to different conditions.

“We are committed to the continued expansion 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.

“With an Ashes this winter and a New Zealand tour early next year, this is a great opportunity for this group to perform in similar environments to those countries.

“Featuring Pete Handsomb, Matt Renshaw, Mitch Swepson and Jimmy Peirson will add experience as senior players who can transfer their knowledge of different conditions.”

The Australia A-squad is coached by current Australia assistant Andre Borovec. Former Sri Lanka Test batsman Thilan Sameraweera will also tour as a batting consultant, with Scott Prestwidge providing the bowling squad, having been part of the coaching staff of Australia’s women’s team during their recent World Cup triumph in South Africa.

The New Zealand tour will also be met with Australia hosting New Zealand A for two four-day matches and three 50-over matches to be played in Australia’s northern states in September this year.

Australia A team on tour through 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

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