Australia admit 'concern' over batting after losses of Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey

The Ashes in England is looming

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The Independent Online

Australia's chairman of selectors, John Inverarity, has admitted there is a "concern" over the lack of batting depth ahead of this summer's Ashes.

Inverarity was speaking after Australia released their list of 20 centrally contracted players. Only Michael Clarke, George Bailey, Ed Cowan, Phil Hughes, David Warner and Shane Watson feature as specialist batsmen.

The recent retirements of Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey have left the Australians short of experience as they attempt to reclaim the urn after back-to-back Ashes defeats, and Inverarity admits the batting line-up is not as strong as it once was.

"There is a concern, I mean we do not have the batting depth now that we enjoyed seven or eight and 15 years ago, we just don't," he said. "And that's something that cricket in Australia really needs to address and we need to get more batsmen making runs prolifically."

Ponting brought the curtain down on a 168-Test career in November, while Hussey, who featured in the last three Ashes series, announced in December that he no longer wanted to play international cricket.

"The runs they made and the general confidence and leadership they showed, they are big losses," said Inverarity. "But that's life, people retire and move on and it's a new generation and it's a period of transition and there are opportunities, and we're looking to our young players to grasp those opportunities and to grow from them."

Australia's build-up to the Ashes, which begins at Trent Bridge on 10 July, has been far from ideal, as they slumped to a 4-0 series loss in India. Inverarity labelled the drubbing "poor" and "unacceptable" but is confident Michael Clarke's men will be better with both bat and ball in English conditions.

"I think our pace bowling is likely to be good, I think the wickets in England are likely to suit us more than they did in India... but we need to get greater stability and certainty in our top six," he said.

"We think with our battery of fast bowlers, with Peter Siddle, James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc, Ryan Harris, Jackson Bird, Mitchell Johnson, Ben Hilfenhaus and others, we think that we can put three good pace bowlers on the park regularly and they can perform well."

Meanwhile, Australia fast-bowler Jackson Bird is hoping to play his way into Ashes contention with a stint in county cricket. The 26-year-old was a surprise omission from the list, with Harris and Patrick Cummins among those preferred by the selectors.

Bird took 11 wickets at 16.18 in two Tests against Sri Lanka this winter before succumbing to stress fractures of the back and returning home from the India tour.

"I would still love to play a part in the Ashes, nothing has changed from that point of view," said Bird. "I'm just going to focus on my rehab and focus on getting back on the park."

Bird's manager Tony Connelly is talking to several county sides, hoping to secure a short-team deal.