Fast bowler Mitchell Johnson and batsman George Bailey are among a 12-man Australia squad for the first Test of the Ashes.
The duo were the notable, if anticipated, inclusions in a party named today for the first match of five in Brisbane and also featuring Shane Watson – who is yet to prove his availability to bowl as well as bat as he recovers from a hamstring injury.
Bailey, uncapped in Tests at the age of 31, has shown remarkable improvement as a limited-overs batsman in the past year – and scored especially heavily in Australia’s last two one-day international series, in England and India.
Johnson, overlooked for Australia’s 3-0 Ashes defeat in England last summer, has appeared back to his best in those same two away ODI series.
His inconsistency has made him the butt of many partisan jokes among Ashes crowds, although he was a match-winner for the hosts in Perth on England's last tour three years ago.
Apart from Johnson and Bailey, the remaining 10 players in Australia's squad were all part of the team which drew this year’s final Ashes Test at the Kia Oval, bowling all-rounder James Faulkner remaining in contention for his second cap, at the expense perhaps of an extra batsman.
Cricket Australia national selector John Inverarity added: “Ten players who represented Australia in its most recent Test match have been retained in this squad.
“Mitchell Starc is unavailable due to injury, and he has been replaced by Mitchell Johnson.
“We have included George Bailey in this line-up and are excited by what he can offer at Test level.
“George has shown outstanding international form over the past 20 months, including the recent limited-overs series in India. He is calm and composed and comes into the squad full of confidence.”
Faulkner, like Bailey a Tasmanian, impressed with bat and ball at the Kia Oval – as well as in limited-overs assignments this year.
Inverarity said: “James Faulkner has retained his place in the squad, and his all-round development over the past five months has been most noticeable and pleasing.”
Australia appear only cautiously optimistic about Watson’s fitness for both disciplines.
“We’re hoping that he’ll be able to bowl,” said Inverarity. “He’s progressing very well and he’ll certainly be fit to play. We believe he’s likely to be able to bowl. But it’s nine days to go, so we can’t give a definitive answer on that.”
Irrespective of whether Faulkner gets the nod this time, Australia believe the 23-year-old is one for the future.
“He has been a cricketer we’ve had our eye on for a long time,” added Inverarity. “He impresses us with his batting and with his bowling and with his attitude, and his uncanny ability to have an impact on almost every game he plays.
“If you give him the ball, he always seems to be able to conjure up a wicket – when he goes out to bat he has the knack of forming a partnership ... we have high hopes for him.”
Australia squad for first Ashes Test in Brisbane: Michael Clarke (captain), Brad Haddin (wicketkeeper), George Bailey, James Faulkner, Ryan Harris, Mitchell Johnson, Nathan Lyon, Chris Rogers, Peter Siddle, Steven Smith, David Warner, Shane Watson.