Neser can add value to Ashes bid: McDonald

Australia assistant coach Andrew McDonald says Michael Neser could play an important role with the ball in the Ashes series.

MICHAEL NESER of the Bulls.
MICHAEL NESER of the Bulls. Picture: (Chris Hyde/Getty Images

He's become the forgotten man of the Ashes selection puzzle, but paceman and perennial drinks runner Michael Neser looms as a bolter this summer.

All the recent talk about team selection has centred around whether Alex Carey or Josh Inglis will replace Tim Paine as the Australian wicketkeeper.

Before that, the chat was about whether in-form paceman Jhye Richardson would be able to edge out Mitchell Starc for the first Test at the Gabba.

Neser has largely been left out of the conversation since injuring a hamstring while playing a Sheffield Shield clash for Queensland against Western Australia at the Gabba on November 10.

Despite the injury, national selectors rated him so highly they went ahead and named him in the extended Ashes squad a week later.

While Josh Hazlewood, Starc, and new skipper Pat Cummins are all but locked in for the first Test at the Gabba, Richardson is no guarantee to be next man in line if an injury pops up or a rotation policy is enacted during the series.

Neser, who has been a regular member of the Test squad since 2018 but is yet to make his debut, is well-regarded by the coaching team and could be used in a horses-for-courses type situation.

"In terms of his playing ability, he's right up there," Australia assistant coach Andrew McDonald said of Neser.

"He's right in the conversation. He was injured at the time when he got selected as well, so that probably suggests how valuable the selectors see him.

"And then it will just be a case of when that opportunity arises, what are the conditions, it is the pink ball game, is it the MCG stump to stump?

"There will be a bit of design in the way the selectors are thinking about that, and hence why they've picked five slightly different bowlers to really complement each other."

Richardson has made a stunning return to the Shield arena this summer, snaring 23 wickets at an average of 13.43 after overcoming persistent shoulder injuries.

The greatest selection dilemma facing Australia is whether to opt for Carey or Inglis to replace Paine, who has taken an indefinite leave from cricket following the sexting scandal.

Carey boosted his chances with a score of 101 off 93 balls while playing for South Australia against Queensland in a one-dayer on Sunday.

"I think it's really still up in the air," McDonald said of the selection battle between Carey and Inglis.

"It (Carey's century) was in white-ball cricket, but any form is good form.

"It's always better to have options than no options, so we look forward to whichever way that goes and the start of someone's Test career."

Australia's three-day inter-squad game, which is due to start on Wednesday, might be scrapped due a forecast for rain in Brisbane.

Despite the poor weather in Queensland, McDonald feels the team have been able to get in some good red-ball practice and will be ready to go for the Ashes opener at the Gabba, starting on December 8.