James Faulkner will be handed a golden opportunity to kick-start his push for a shock Ashes berth when the allrounder is named as a key figure in Australia’s 15-man squad for the Champions Trophy to be staged in England in June.
Faulkner emerged as a player of the future in the one-day arena last summer, with a couple of strong efforts in his debut matches against the West Indies.
Switching from shorter-form cricket to the cauldron of a Test debut in England would be no easy task, but Faulkner can at least enter the Ashes camp with his tail up if he produces in Australia’s defence of the last ever Champions Trophy.
Few surprises are expected when national selector John Inverarity announces the squad in Brisbane on Wednesday, especially given the players chosen to represent Australia A in their UK tour that will run at the same time as the Champions Trophy.
One-day candidates Brad Haddin, Steve Smith, Moises Henriques, Usman Khawaja, James Pattinson and Jackson Bird are all in the Australia A team, and therefore won’t be considered for Michael Clarke’s Champions Trophy squad.
Faulkner misses out on the chance to show his wares in the more Test-like conditions of the Australia A matches, but can at least thrive on the bigger intensity of an international ODI tournament for his Ashes preparation.
Along with bowling allrounder Faulkner, left-arm quick Mitchell Starc will be another Ashes squad member looking to find form in the Champions Trophy, which Australia won in India in 2006 and South Africa in 2009.
Starc was explosive against Sri Lanka and the West Indies in the recent summer, but will be leading the attack in his return from ankle surgery.
Fellow pace weapon Mitchell Johnson appears another certain selection, and will have a point to prove after being left out of the original Ashes squad.
Captain Clarke, as well as David Warner, Shane Watson, Phil Hughes and Matt Wade round out the list of Ashes players who will form the spine of the Champions Trophy line-up.
It’s tipped West Australian fast bowler Nathan Coulter-Nile will be picked in the squad and be in contention for his ODI debut in the tournament.
George Bailey is expected to be named vice-captain, but Wade and Warner are also contenders as Australia looks to build a leadership plan for the future.
Australia start their Champions Trophy campaign with a match against England on June 8, with group fixtures against New Zealand and Sri Lanka to follow before the semi-finals.
Possible Australian squad: Michael Clarke (capt), David Warner, Shane Watson, Phillip Hughes, Adam Voges, James Faulkner, Mitchell Johnson, Clint McKay, Xavier Doherty, Matthew Wade, George Bailey, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Glenn Maxwell, Shaun Marsh