Damien Martyn on if Australia A could beat England

Could Australia’s A team beat this English rabble in a Test?

Twenty-six years ago, Australia A took on and took down England in the limited-overs arena.

If Australia’s current second-stringers matched up against England’s Ashes squad in the Test arena there’s a fair chance they’d also emerge victorious.

In 1994-95 when Zimbabwe was the third team in the annual triangular series, the powers that be decided to add an Australia A team to the tournament.

As expected, Australia’s main team led by Mark Taylor qualified for the final.

What was not expected was the Australian A team bettered England in the final pool match at the SCG to finish second on the standings and set up the closest thing we will ever have to a sporting civil war Down Under.

Root’s England squad has meekly capitulated in the first three Ashes Tests and not even the maddest dog or Englishman would believe they will win one of the next two games in the Australian sun.

Former Test batter Damien Martyn, who captained the A team in that memorable series more than a quarter of a century ago which culminated in a hard-fought finals loss to Australia’s top squad, had some fun on social media after the third Test debacle at the MCG.

He went on to say England’s problems stem from the fact that they’re fielding a side with only one player – Root (49.9) – who has an average up to standard for the Test arena.

The rest of the batters in the squad are well below 40 at Test level with a few now south of 30.

“Just look up the first class averages for the top 6 batsmen. Unacceptable avg below 40 in first class cricket to then get picked for test cricket,” he wrote on Twitter.

If Australia’s strongest XI was unavailable for selection, here is how the next-best side would stack up against the Poms.

Top order
For England, take your pick from Rory Burns, Haseeb Hameed or Zak Crawley to be the openers for England – whichever two you pick, they’re out of form and struggling in Australian conditions. First drop Dawid Malan is one of the few Englishmen who can cope with the extra bounce.

With Will Pucovski yet to return to first-class cricket, Australia A would field a couple of openers untried at international level in Bryce Street and Henry Hunt with Usman Khawaja at first drop.

Verdict: honours even

Middle order
Joe Root is world class, Ben Stokes is a match-winner but sadly out of form while Jonny Bairstow has plenty of experience in international cricket.

The Aussie A middle order of Matt Renshaw, Nic Maddinson and Mitch Marsh are all in form but have been tried in the Test arena with limited success.

Verdict: England have the advantage here

Jos Buttler has been a capable gloveman and decent contributor with the bat for several seasons but not this one.

With Tim Paine standing down from cricket, the next keeper in line for Australia is West Australian rising star Josh Inglis, who averaged 73 in the Sheffield Shield last season with three centuries.

Verdict: Slight advantage to England but that’s only because Paine’s absence means Australia’s now down to their third option

Jack Leach has been in and out of the English Test team over the past couple of years, is not a big turner of the ball and is clearly not respected by the Australian batters, who don’t see him as a wicket-taking threat.

Mitch Swepson has been in and around the Australian squad the past couple of summers and if he doesn’t get his Test debut in the two upcoming Ashes dead rubbers, he is likely to feature on next year’s tours of the subcontinent.

Verdict: Honours even

Pace attack
England’s seamers have done a decent job in the Ashes, particularly Jimmy Anderson and Mark Wood but the problem is they haven’t always been picked. Throw in Stuart Broad, Chris Woakes or Ollie Robinson and they’ve got a more than capable trio.

Jhye Richardson, Scott Boland and Michael Neser have shown they’re up to Test level but they’ve got the misfortune of having Pat Cummins, Mitch Starc and Josh Hazlewood ahead of them in the pecking order.

Verdict: Advantage England but the gap is closing.

So even though Australia are putting the cleaners through England in the Ashes, it’s too much of a stretch to say the second XI would also be triumphant.

Australia’s bowling depth is sensational at the moment and they have prospects like Inglis, Street, Hunt and Swepson who could go on to star on the international stage.

However, the batting reinforcements are still relatively thin.

To put it in perspective, the top six which lined up for Australia A when they beat England to reach the final in the summer of 1994-95 was Matthew Hayden, Greg Blewett, Martyn, Michael Bevan, Justin Langer and a young Ricky Ponting at six.

Blewett and Bevan hit tons in the 29-run win over Mike Atherton’s England side filled with plenty of established stars like Graham Gooch, Mike Gatting, Graham Thorpe and Graeme Hick.

If Australia A could field a batting line-up of that mid 90s quality they would probably wipe the floor with England too.

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