Usman Khawaja will captain the Australians in the three-day tour match against Derbyshire starting Thursday and open with Marcus Harris in a potential playoff for the role accompanying David Warner at the top of the order for the Old Trafford Test, with Alex Carey called in from Sussex to keep wickets and therefore grant Tim Paine a breather between Leeds and Manchester.
Steven Smith has been confirmed to make his return from concussion for the match, while David Warner, Nathan Lyon, Travis Head, James Pattinson, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins have been rested. The match will give Mitchell Starc and Peter Siddle the chance to press for recalls ahead of Old Trafford, while also offering time in the middle for Khawaja, Harris, Matthew Wade, Marnus Labuschagne and Cameron Bancroft.
Carey has not been formally added to the Ashes squad, though he has the chance to press his case for further involvement by making runs against Derbyshire in the fixture.
"I'll probably be up the top, me and Harry [Harris] will open, and then go from there," Khawaja said. "It depends on the team, because Smithy's in there too, there's a few other batsman in there trying to get a game, Mitch Marsh obviously hasn't played a lot so he'll be batting up the top of the order too.
"Marnus might get a few overs bowling his spinners, which I'm always reluctant to do, just to annoy him, but at the moment it's just about guys going out and playing some cricket, worrying about this game, getting ready for the next game, then whatever's out of our, just leaving it at that."
The Australians had an injury scare at training on Wednesday when, during an intra-squad game of touch football, Nathan Lyon twisted his right ankle and was immediately seen limping off the county ground at Derby to receive attention from the team doctor Richard Saw. A team spokesman referred to the issue as a "slight twist of the right ankle" and Lyon, his right ankle strapped, was later able to walk onto the team bus, though it remains to be seen whether he is right to bowl in the nets during this fixture. He is the only full-time spinner in the squad.
For Khawaja, the fixture offers a chance to return to a ground where he played two seasons of county cricket in 2011 and 2012, and also to make runs that have thus far eluded him during the Ashes, though not through a lack of starts. "I actually feel really good batting," he said. "I just haven't made any big runs lately, which is obviously frustrating for me and when you look at the team you'd like the top order to score big runs.
"I think we've fallen short of that in the top order and I think they have too in a lot of the games. It has been tough work but that can be the difference sometimes, winning or losing a Test match. I'm actually getting lots of starts, it's not like I'm in no man's territory. The most important thing is to capitalise on the starts, because if you don't capitalise there are always times when you're going to get out early. That's what the best players do, so hopefully I'll do that in the next couple of games.
"It's three days of cricket here, no matter where you're playing there's always competition for spots, it's the nature of the game. you don't wish anything bad on anyone. Everyone in the squad deserves to be playing Test cricket, so you just go out there, try to perform and the main goal for us is to try to win this game, do that and you can't control what you can't control."