Usman Khawaja, Travis Head returns for Australia's Ashes Campaign
Veteran Usman Khawaja and middle-tier batsman Travis Head were added to Australia's roster for the first two Ashes Tests against England on Wednesday, but Matthew Wade was dropped. Michael Neser and Jhye Richardson also formed the 15-man cast as back-up for the near-bowling attack by Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood after James Pattinson resigned in shock last month. As expected, Marcus Harris received the nod in the absence of concussion-struck Will Pucovski and will open alongside David Warner, fresh from his heroics, helping Australia win the Twenty20 World Cup on Sunday.
But there was no place for Mitchell Marsh, the other World Cup star, despite the demand to give the all-rounder another chance at test level. "This group is well balanced to ensure that we are prepared for the many challenges of an Ashes series," said Chief Selector George Bailey prior to the opening test in Brisbane on December 8th.
"It has a mix of seasoned, proven artists and emerging, developing talent," he added. After the second test, a day-night match in Adelaide on December 16, the series moves to Melbourne, Sydney and Perth. Australia are holding the ashes they kept from the 2-2 draw in the 2019 series in England.
Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith are safe in the stroke order at three and four, so Khawaja and Head have to fight for number five after Wade was dropped.
Khawaja hasn't run a test in England since 2019 but it was exhausting to ignore, having amassed 404 runs at home in Sheffield Shield this season with a mean of 67.33 over two centuries. "Obviously very excited to play for Australia is always an honor," said the 34-year-old, who has scored eight centuries in his 44 tests.
"But still business as usual, I don't get too far. whether I play or not depends on which direction the selectors are going." Head was cut halfway through the final summer season collection unlike India, but he will get another chance after a good early season. "Travis did well last summer, second only to Cameron Green in runs, and has started the season well again," said Bailey.
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“He drives the game forward and can put the opponent under pressure with his ability to score quickly. “Usman Khawaja also has good contacts. He brings a relaxed, constant and competent part into the line-up and is a confirmed runscorer in the test grade. " Which of them will play the Opening Test may depend on how they fare in a practice game in Brisbane December 1-3
With Marsh to be content with a place on the Australian A-Team, Green will race at six in front of wicketkeeper captain Tim Paine, who is fit after an invasive neck operation in September. Starc, Cummins and Hazlewood lead the attack again alongside spin wizard Nathan Lyon. But Pattinson's resignation meant Australia needed a fourth fast bowler, with Richardson competing for the honor with Neser recovering from an inferior Achilles tendon strain.
Mitchell Swepson is the alternative to Lyon. Australia also announced an 11-Man A-Team with players on standby for the Third Test and beyond.