(Australian Associated Press)
Australia coach Darren Lehmann has some bad news for England – the bulk of the Ashes-winning squad that has terrorised the visitors this summer will be back to finish the job in 2019.
It took just three Tests for Australia to regain the urn, with their innings and 41-run victory at the WACA Ground on Monday the most comprehensive win in the series thus far.
Australia have already set their sights on completing a 5-0 series sweep, but they also have bigger fish to fry.
First, they want to regain the No.1 Test ranking.
Australia currently sit fifth, but they can climb up the table with a successful Test tour of South Africa, starting in March.
And further down the line, Australia want to win the Ashes in England – something they haven’t been able to achieve since prevailing 4-1 in 2001.
Lehmann believes the bulk of the current Ashes-winning squad will still be there in 2019.
“I’m pretty sure they can hang together this group,” Lehmann said.
“They’re young enough to play for a few years together and that was the key 12 months ago, even though we’ve changed some of those younger players.”
The most vulnerable person in the squad is Shaun Marsh, who, at 34 years old, is just one serious injury or one form slump away from being thrown into the Test wilderness.
And the star-studded pace attack is no guarantee to feature in England given the injury history of Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins.
But if the injury curse doesn’t strike, Australia’s squad in 2019 could be strikingly similar to the current one.
That’s good news for Lehmann.
But he said having the same players wouldn’t be enough – they would also need to evolve their plans in order to come up trumps on enemy territory.
“They’ve got some good young players,” Lehmann said.
“We’ve managed to put them under pressure at the right times, and hopefully that continues for the next two Test matches.
“But some of those players will be involved in the next Ashes series, so we’ve got to make sure we keep evolving our plans and being better.”
Starc is desperate to play in the Boxing Day Test as Australia attempt to stretch their series lead to 4-0.
But the left-armer is battling a bruised right heel, and the team’s medical staff would need to give their stamp of approval before Starc is cleared to play.
Australian players celebrated their Ashes triumph in Perth on Monday night.
Lehmann said with the series already decided, the pressure valve has been released.
“We’ll be playing the same brand of cricket, but obviously with less pressure on us. It’ll be interesting to see how we respond to that,” Lehmann said.