well talk of the ashes is heating up & both sides (more so England) don't totally know what their best XI's for the series may look like.
For Australia they have two minor problems, in the middle order where Jaques, Clarke, Martyn, Hodge & Watson are battling for two spaces. Right now i could narrow it down to one space by selecting Jaques, i think he has done enough to be able to make the side even if he has to bat in the middle-order, he has done it for Yorkshire & he himself has said he hopes the selectors dont see him just as a opener.
For the next position its very open at the moment, Martyn came back & did fairly well in SA but he will need to score runs in the ODI's & Pura Cup to secure back is place. Clarke on the other hand has been superb in ODI's but didn't really cash in vs Bangladesh so he just has the ODI's & Pura Cup to push for a spot & who knows the fact that he is a brillaint fielder & a decent relief bowler might give him the nod presuming he make runs. Watson chances IMO have had lift due to his decent performances for Aus A in the recent top end series, i think his chances are the best because i feel Ponting & the selectors want that 5th bowling option since ashes thats why the persisted with Symonds so long. If he comes back to play in England this year & does well & does well for Queensland for the initial part of the pura cup i think he has a great chance. Hodge on the other hand was harshly dropped & has been scoring runs ever since, all he needs to do is keep it up because in case of injuries he would be a top option to fall back on, but i think he is behind the first three.
With the bowling the only minor problem Australia have is whether to start with Gillespie or Clark. Dizzy came back with a bang in Bangladesh but has stuggled to take wickets for Yorkshire this season which is hindering him a bit, he needs to start taking wickets to get picked since we all know how valuable his gritty batting is. Clark had a wonderful first series, all he needs to do IMO is back it up with solid performances in the OD & Pura Cup & he might get the nod over Dizzy initially even if Gillespie starts taking wickets in the latter half of the county season.
Based on that this is my Australian 1st test XI:
Well obviously England big problem is with the amount of injuries to the top players, but hopefully the current who are fit stay fit & some that are injures i.e Flintoff, Anderson, Giles & S Jones (probably) can get fit in time.
With the batting i'd say the top 6 looks secured with Trescothick, Strauss, Cook, KP, Colly & Freddie. Read has just got a call-up & hopefully he holds it down for a while yet, until probably Steve Davies probaly lives up to the little hype he is getting. Back-up for me should come from Bell & Butcher who has been batting well this season for Surrey & even though the batting talent in the country is good its still a bit inexperienced & his experience could be useful, if not one can always go to Shah, Joyce or Key.
With the bowling Hoggard & Harmison will start along with Freddie (once fit). From here the headache starts especially with the other fast-bowlers. Plunks & Mahmood have been fairly disappointing & for me should not be on the plane to Australia, Lewis may bowl well in England but down under he would be food. If Jones wont be able to make it which is pretty certain at this stage, hopefully Anderson can get fit soon because if his performace vs India in the Mumbai test was anything to go by he could be a vital cog in England fast bowling Arsenal with Jones out. Also i think Tremlett should be around the set-up i don't know if he is injured or has lost for Hampshire but based on what i saw of him last year he would be a good man to have IMO.
The spinners pick themselves obviosuly, the only problem is hopefully if Gilo returns who to start with. Gilo will work has the holding bowler behind the fast-men & would offer valuable lower-order runs & good out-fielding & if conditions suit he could be effective. He wasted one in the ashes but thats just one time he has bowled well in sub-continental conditions before so its not like he useless on a turner. Panesar on the other hand looks like more of an attacking spinner while he is improving in his batting & fielding but England need to pick their best all-round side & even if Panesar continues to take wickets vs Pakistan if Gilo recovers he shouldn't start, but could still come into play on the pitches at Adelaide or the SCG where England could play both him & Gilo & 3 fast-bowlers.
Also even if Vaughan doesn't play in the ashes, hopefully he does put on an England shirt again.
Based on that, this would be my England starting XI & Touring sqaud:
Flintoff* - Captain
Butcher/Joyce/Shah - either would be ok for me