RICKY Ponting says selectors have already given telltale signs that Hilton Cartwright will be Australia's No. 6 for next week's first Ashes Test in Brisbane.
This week's Sheffield Shield round will be the final chance for No. 6 contenders to stake a claim before the Australian squad is named on Friday for the Ashes opener starting at the Gabba on November 23.
All eyes will be on Cartwright in Western Australia's clash with South Australia in Perth while fellow candidate Glenn Maxwell's Victoria host Tasmania at the MCG, both starting on Monday.
WA teammate Shaun Marsh, Redbacks left-hander Jake Lehmann and NSW's Dan Hughes are also believed to be in the No. 6 mix.
But Ponting believes selectors have already shown their hand, saying two-Test all-rounder Cartwright looks set to be picked at No. 6 despite a dreaded pair for WA in his last Shield game.
He said Cartwright's debut in a dead-rubber Test against Pakistan in Sydney in January was a "dry run" for the Ashes series.
"I think it's going to be hard for them (the selectors) not to pick Cartwright," Ponting told cricket.com.au.
"He averages 50 in first-class cricket, none of the other guys (No. 6 contenders) around the country are doing that.
"I know he got a pair in the last Shield game, but he also played the last Test in Australia, in Sydney last year.
"So someone is seeing something there.
"I thought it was a shock selection when he got picked in Sydney last year, but maybe that was a bit of an audition for what this summer looks like."
Ponting believed other indications that Cartwright would be Australia's Ashes No. 6 were the 25-year-old's selection for a must-win second Test against Bangladesh in September and his shock elevation as opener during the recent one-day tour of India.
"They jumped at the opportunity to play (him) opening the batting in the one-day series in India just gone, when he went as a spare batter," Ponting said.
"So unless something extraordinary happens this week in this last round of Shield games, then I think Cartwright will be the man at six."
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.