Cricket Australia selection chair George Bailey has given every indication that Marcus Harris is first in line to be David Warner's successor and become Australia's next Test opener.
Harris hasn't played a Test match for his country since he featured in the final Ashes Test of the summer at the start of last year, but the 30-year-old received a vote of confidence on Thursday when he was named ahead of a host of other key batters in Cricket Australia's contract list for the 2023-24 period.
Harris was one of just three specialist openers to win a new contract, with selectors opting to exclude Matthew Renshaw and Cameron Bancroft from the 24-player list ahead of a busy upcoming period that includes the ICC World Test Championship final against India in June and Ashes series in England.
While Harris' Test record in England isn't flash - he managed just 58 runs from six hits during the 2019 Ashes series - Bailey pointed to the fact the left-hander has scored a bulk of runs for County sides Leicestershire and Gloucestershire over the past two years and is well suited to the seaming conditions that Australia are expected to face.
"Harry (Harris) was our spare batter throughout the Test summer at home...back in England, then another home summer and Tests in New Zealand we certainly rate Harry’s ability in those conditions," Bailey said on Thursday.
"He has a really strong record in England as well and one of our criteria when doing the contracts is past performances and one is an eye to the future as well so that perhaps gives us an indication of where we hold Harry."
Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting recently suggested on The ICC Review that Warner missed the perfect time to retire from Test cricket earlier this year, but the 36-year-old was retained on the contract list on Thursday and is expected to feature in the World Test Championship final.
While Harris might be at the top of the pecking order to usurp Warner and become Australia's next Test opener, Bailey was quick to leave the door ajar for both Bancroft and Renshaw to show their credentials despite the lack of a contract.
Bancroft will be in England playing for Somerset in the lead-up to the World Test Championship final and Ashes, while Renshaw has already showed his class with a pair of big scores for Australia A in their ongoing series against New Zealand A.
Bailey knows that Australia's current Test openers won't be available for selection for too much longer and is hoping the next generation of top-order performers can continue to apply pressure on each other.
"There is no doubt that Dave and Usman (Khawaja) are closer to the end of their careers than the start," Bailey noted.
"We are going to need some depth and we are going to need all three of those guys performing really, really well for us and hopefully they make our decisions really challenging."
Australia will choose a preliminary squad later this month for the World Test Championship final and first two Ashes Tests and then reduce their list down to 15 for the one-off Test against India at The Oval at the end of May.
Bailey said the plan was to assess the make-up of the squad following the first two Ashes Tests and announce a new squad for the final three Ashes Tests following the second Test of the series at Lord's at the end of June.