“A murderer is less loathsome to us than a spy. The murderer may have acted on a sudden mad impulse; he may be penitent and amend; but a spy is always a spy, night and day, in bed, at table, as he walks abroad; his vileness pervades every moment of his life.” – Honore de Balzac.
As Australia embark on their Ashes adventure in the British Isles, they will be banking on some inside information and knowledge of English conditions from the spies they sent to the country ahead of the series.
Well, not exactly spies, but a few in the Aussie squad could well be head coach Justin Langer’s close aids during the entire campaign. Here we take a glance at four of those who appear pretty inconspicuous in the Australia squad, but might play a big role in the series on and off the field.
Not as scary as his adventure in South Africa, but Durham’s County Championship captain of the 2018/19 season, Cameron Bancroft, will have the task of helping Australian batsmen get a hang of the pitches and conditions on offer. The opening batsman had a gala time in the County Championship this year racking up 726 runs in nine matches at an average of 45.37 including two tons and three half-centuries.
Wade’s transformation as a pure batsman came following his performances in the Sheffield Shield competition back home. But eventually tilted the balance his way ahead of World Cup hero Alex Carey was his runs in England. He scored centuries against Northamptonshire and Derbyshire for Australia A (the latter the fastest List A hundred by an Australian from just 45 balls). He then went on to confirm his place with a 114 against a strong England Lions attack that featured some England Test bowlers.
The incredibly experienced Peter Siddle has been an outsider in the Test squad for the larger part of the last three years. But he has stayed in reckoning despite the arrival of some new pace bowlers aided by some exceptional performances in domestic cricket. His latest good show for Essex in the County Championship in England propelled him into the Ashes squad. He has 34 wickets in 8 matches this season for Essex including two five wicket hauls.
A suspect pick in Australia’s Test squad last season, Marnus Labuschagne confirmed his Ashes spot with a compelling performance in England county cricket. Labuschagne has led the County Division 2 batting charts with 1114 runs this season (only player with 1000-plus runs) for Glamorgan, averaging 65.52 in addition to clocking overs (192 overs bowled) with the ball. The all-round quality was recognised for Australia do not even have a back-up spinner to Nathan Lyon in the Test team.
*A notable mention includes James Pattinson who has been a key performer for Nottinghamshire over the last three seasons in the County Championship