Australia have named a provisional 17-man squad ahead of the opening Ashes Test against England, which begins on 25th November in Brisbane.
Uncapped left-arm spinner Xavier Doherty, who impressed while making his One-Day International debut against Sri Lanka earlier this month is included in the squad while Ryan Harris returns to the fold after making a good start to the domestic season with Queensland.
Uncapped batsman Usman Khawaja, who toured England with Australia last year, is also in the squad while under pressure middle-order players Marcus North and Michael Hussey retain their places although they also face competition from Callum Ferguson, who, like Harris, has recently returned from a lengthy injury lay-off.
National Selection Panel (NSP) chairman Andrew Hilditch explained:
“The NSP considers it prudent and appropriate to look at the next round of Weet-Bix Sheffield Shield games and the Australia A clash before finalising the team for the first Test of the Vodafone Ashes Series in Brisbane. From a logistical point of view and with these important games yet to be completed we have named an extended squad of 17 with 10 days before the first Test begins.
“This squad of 17 will be reduced to a 12 or 13-man squad at the conclusion of the next round of Sheffield Shield games and prior to the team arriving in Brisbane for the first Test.
“The NSP has been pleased with the performance of the Test side in India however we were obviously disappointed in the result. With two losses in games where we felt the result could easily have been different and we realise there are some important areas we need to improve on before this summer’s matches.
“Nathan Hauritz has performed exceptionally well over the past 12 months for Australia and one of the biggest decisions we will need to make is whether we go into the first Test in Brisbane with a right-arm off spinner or with the variation of a left-arm orthodox bowler.
“Xavier Doherty has been very impressive in both limited overs and first-class cricket, in particular last season and the start of this season, and it will be a great opportunity for us to observe both of the spinning options in the Sheffield Shield clash between New South Wales and Tasmania at the SCG this week.
“Usman Khawaja and Callum Ferguson have both enjoyed extremely good interstate seasons for New South Wales and South Australia respectively and richly deserve the opportunity to be considered for selection in this first Test side. The Australia A game against England in Hobart this week is a particularly important aspect of our preparation for what will be an amazing Ashes series.”
However, injury problems remain for Australia, with Michael Clarke suffering from a stiff back, Ryan Harris requiring ongoing work on a chronic knee injury and New South Wales pair Simon Katich and Doug Bollinger returning from injuries recently.
Australia provisional Ashes squad: Ricky Ponting (captain), Michael Clarke (vice-captain), Doug Bollinger, Xavier Doherty, Callum Ferguson, Brad Haddin, Ryan Harris, Nathan Hauritz, Michael Hussey, Ben Hilfenhaus, Mitchell Johnson, Simon Katich, Usman Khawaja, Marcus North, Peter Siddle, Steven Smith, Shane Watson
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