Veteran batsman Usman Khawaja has earned a recall as the selectors named a strong 15-member contingent for the first two Ashes Tests. Khawaja, who has not featured in a Test match for more than two years, has been in fine form in the Sheffield Shield this season and is now set to battle it out with Travis Head for a middle order berth in the playing XI.
The selectors have also named uncapped legspinner Mitchell Swepson as Nathan Lyon’s backup while also picking Marcus Harris as David Warner’s opening partner. Harris was backed to deliver at the top of the order recently by the chairman of selectors, George Bailey.
Michael Neser, who has just returned to training after suffering a mild hamstring strain, has been picked alongside Jhye Richardson as the backup for the pace trio of Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood. “Jhye is seeing the rewards of concentrating on his red ball cricket in the build up to this series,” Bailey said. “We know he has an exceptional skill set and are excited about what he brings to the team now his body is back on track.
“Marcus has been a consistent run scorer domestically and had a strong winter further developing his game with Leicestershire. He is a good player who will be looking to build a strong partnership with David Warner at the top of the order.
“Travis finished last summer strongly, second only to Cameron Green for runs scored, and has again started the season well. He drives the game forward and can put the opposition under pressure with his ability to score quickly. Similarly, Usman Khawaja has been in great touch. He brings a calm, consistent and experienced component to the batting line up and is a proven run scorer at Test level. He also has the ability to bat across a range of positions in the batting order.”
The selectors have also picked a group of 11 players for the Australia A side with all the selected players set to feature in an intra-squad match from December 1-3 as part of their preparation. Australia’s hero in the recently-concluded T20 World Cup final, Mitchell Marsh, has been named in the group that also has the likes of Matt Renshaw and Nic Maddinson, rewarded for their recent form in the Shield games.
Australia Test squad: Tim Paine (C), Pat Cummins (VC), Cameron Green, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Michael Neser, Jhye Richardson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson, David Warner
Australia A players:Sean Abbott, Ashton Agar, Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Henry Hunt, Josh Inglis, Nic Maddinson, Mitchell Marsh, Matt Renshaw, Mark Steketee, Bryce Street
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