Unprecedented move in Smith, Warner return
CRICKET Australia (CA) has taken the unprecedented step of scheduling an Ashes warm-up match in England between Australia's best 22 players, desperate to bolster Justin Langer's bid to retain the urn.
Australia will face Australia A next year, with the four-day game expected to serve as the tourists' final tune-up before the first Test begins at Edgbaston on August 1.
It's understood the match will take place at the Rose Bowl in Hampshire, starting on July 23.
The World Cup final is on July 14 at Lord's, leaving little time between the one-day tournament and showpiece Test series.
The Australia A game is likely to be particularly important for suspended superstars Steve Smith and David Warner, who both met with Langer recently and are expected to be part of Australia's World Cup defence.
One of the main arguments cited during the recent push for Smith and Warner to play the second half of the Sheffield Shield season was that denying them first-class cricket in 2019 could have a knock-on effect regarding their hopes of Ashes selection.
Nothing can replicate the intensity of a Test but Australia A, likely to feature some players on the cusp of Test selection, should prove a challenging opposition for Tim Paine's side.
Such contests have been rare but generally willing.
Australia paceman Glenn McGrath pushed Australia A batsman Matthew Hayden during a heated mid-pitch confrontation at the SCG in 1995, when the sides contested the finals of a one-day series also involving England and Zimbabwe.
According to Cricket records, Australia hasn't played an official tour match against Australia A since January 1995.
While Australia A has faced various international teams, Sheffield Shield opponents and recently teams representing the national performance squad, there have been no further clashes between Australia and Australia A since the fateful summer where Aussie crowds famously got behind the underdogs to upset the Aussie XI.
CA has arranged an Australia A tour of England that will run concurrently with the World Cup, ensuring Test-only players like captain Paine have a chance to adjust to local conditions.
Don Bradman's 1948 Invincibles played 12 tour games in England prior to their first Ashes Test but times have undeniably changed.
Tour games, especially the quality of opposition and venues, have become a big concern around the world. The International Cricket Council issued a plea this year, asking host boards to provide better treatment of visiting teams.
India's only tune-up for the first Test is against a CA XI squad that features five players without any first-class experience. Day one at the SCG was ruined by Sydney's storms.
Staging the World Cup forced the England Cricket Board (ECB) to rejig its domestic schedule and it's understood it also affected the availability of county teams for tour games.
Worcestershire will host Australia in a three-day fixture beginning on August 7, which falls between the first and second Ashes Tests.
Derbyshire will meet Australia in a three-day game that is slated to start after the third Test, on August 29.