Travis Head believes he is a better batsman than when he last played for Australia ahead of next week’s crucial duel with Usman Khawaja.
Selectors now have two big calls to make ahead of the first Ashes Test on December 8 at the Gabba, with who tosses the coin for Australia likely to capture all headlines.
But the battle for the middle-order spot remains crucial for two players who have spent their entire careers coming in and out of the Test side and therefore not feeling the head of the current battle.
Head and Khawaja will first meet in Adelaide on Tuesday for a Sheffield Shield match, before a domestic one-day game follows.
Beyond that, selectors can also use an intrasquad game in Queensland at the start of December to settle on the No.5 spot.
The in-form Khawaja last played for Australia in the 2019 Ashes, while Head’s last chance came at the Boxing Day Test last year after five innings below 40.
Head averaged 68.69 for South Australia last summer and has started this season with a Shield century and one-day double-ton.
But that form was punctuated by a rough in English County Cricket, after arriving at Sussex on the back of a four-week holiday.
“I was probably chasing my tail a bit,” Head said.
“But I’ve experienced a lot (since last playing for Australia), gone to England.
“Been in and out the team. Dealt with those things, come back been stronger, been better.
“I’ve been consistent over the last 12 or 18 months. So I hope (I am a better player).
“And I hope next week I’m a better player than this week. I’m working hard and continuing that and fingers crossed.”
Head can also see other advantages out of his England jaunt.
He worked closely with New Zealand quick Ollie Robinson, who has taken 28 wickets in his five Tests since debuting in June.
His 196-centimetre frame has also seen the right-armer compared to Josh Hazlewood, with Australia’s wickets expected to suit him.
“He is the standout that I’ve probably seen the most of,” Head said.
“He’s probably going to be their banker. He was unbelievable for them during the summer. He was probably their go-to man.
“A lot of people have liked him to Hoff (Hazlewood), with a slightly taller and slightly harder length.
“He had a lot of success here in the A tours a few years ago.
“I didn’t come across (any of their other quicks) at Sussex, but it’s another thing I have experienced over the last six months that hopefully makes me a better player.”