Chris Rogers provided the composed head Australia needed at the top of the order in the recent England Ashes series. He returned to the Test side for the Ashes campaign following a solitary Test against India in 2008.
In England, the 35-year-old scored a magnificent maiden century at Chester-le-Street and posted two other gritty half-centuries in the series. He finished the series with 367 runs at 40.77.
David Warner was left out of the first two Tests of the England Ashes campaign after punching English batsman Joe Root in a Birmingham nightclub. He was sent to Zimbabwe with Australia A before returning to play the final three Tests, scoring 138 runs at an average of 23.
When he fires, the big-hitting Warner is hard to stop but his style makes him a hit-or-miss option at the top of the order. He looks to have secured his place with a century and unbeaten half-century in the recent Sheffield Shield clash for New South Wales.
Once again injury had put Shane Watson’s involvement in the Ashes campaign into the “questionable” category. While he will take his place at the top of the batting order, his dodgy hamstring means he is unlikely to bowl.
On the recent Ashes tour, Watson scored 418 runs at an average of 41.08. However, his final-Test century inflated his tour numbers. Watson is vital to Australia’s prospects but he will need to fire early and often to give the home side the best possible chance of recapturing the Ashes.
Michael Clarke (c)
Michael Clarke was a solid performer in the recent Ashes series in England but would have been disappointed in comparison to his recent lofty standards. In 2012, Clarke plundered 1,595 runs at a 106.33 average. In comparison, he scored 381 runs at 47.62 in England, which included a brilliant 187 at Old Trafford.
Clarke missed Australia’s recent one-day tour of India as he continues to battle a back complaint but he is confident the injury will not affect his Ashes campaign. Which is just as well, as any chance of an Australian series win will rely heavily on what the captain can produce in the middle.
Clarke also heads into this series perhaps under more scrutiny than normal, with recent biographies by former team-mates Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey putting the spotlight on his leadership qualities.
Steve Smith’s maiden Test century during the English Ashes series was a promising sign and this summer he has the opportunity to lock down his place.
Smith scored 345 runs at 38.33 on the recent tour and he will be looking for a more consistent effort throughout the return series.
George Bailey’s recent outstanding display during the one-day tour of India made him an irresistible selection for the first Test at the Gabba. But as good as Bailey has been in the one-day arena, he must now find a way to translate that form in the Test arena.
The Tasmanian captain averaged about 18 in the Sheffield Shield last year and looked anything but comfortable as Test spearhead Ryan Harris worked him over in his first four-day game since returning from India. He scored 34 and 41 in that game and must improve if he is hold down his Test place.
Brad Haddin (vc)
Brad Haddin stepped back into the Test squad to fill the leadership void left by Shane Watson’s decision to step down as vice-captain.
Haddin’s form behind the stumps was hard to argue with, as he claimed a world record for the most dismissals (29) ever in a Test series. He scored 206 with the bat at an average of 22.88 and Australia could be looking for a few contributions from him at the crease if it is to reclaim the urn.
Haddin can ill-afford any slip-ups with Matthew Wade and Tim Paine, back on the scene after a lengthy injury battle, breathing down his neck.
James Faulkner made his Test debut in the fifth Ashes encounter of the recent series at The Oval in August.
Faulkner made an encouraging start to his career in the five-day arena with a highest score of 23 and best figures of 4 for 51 in the drawn Test.
The Tasmanian all-rounder has became a fixture in Australia’s one-day international squad since debuting in Perth last February and played a key role in the recently completed series away to India.
He scored 230 runs with the bat, including a 73-ball 116 in Bangalore, while he took seven wickets in Australia’s 3-2 series defeat.
Harris was one of the stars of the recent England tour, claiming 22 wickets at an average of 20.28 in the four games he played. The key for Australia will be ensuring Harris is fit and firing for all five Tests of the summer.
He has been susceptible to injury but there is no doubt Australia is a better team with Harris in the 11. He ranks up there with the best quicks in the world.
Siddle bowled his heart out on the recent England tour, claiming 17 wickets at 31.58. The Victorian quick is renowned for his never-say-die attitude and his aggression on Australia’s quick wickets will be a key his series.
Like Harris, a firing Siddle is an important piece of Australia’s puzzle.
With Mitchell Starc out of the Ashes campaign selectors have turned to Johnson as their left-arm attacking option. He looks to have established his place with a strong recent one-day tour of India.
While he has 205 Test wickets, Johnson has struggled in recent seasons and has a tendency to be either very good or very bad. Australia will need him to be at his devastating best to have a chance this summer.
Even Australia doesn’t seem convinced with Lyon as selectors have spent most of his 25-Test career trying to find another option. On the recent England tour, selectors pulled Ashton Agar from relative obscurity to play the first two Tests. He claimed two wickets at an average of 124 before selectors turned to Lyon for the final three Tests.
Lyon claimed nine wickets at 33.6 in his three Tests in England. He gets the start for this series but whether he is still there for the fifth Test is anyone’s guess.