Hauritz loses out to Doherty
Left-arm spinner Xavier Doherty is in line to make his Test debut in the opening Ashes Test after Australia trimmed their squad for Brisbane.
The 27-year-old was preferred to off-spinner Nathan Hauritz when Australia today reduced their original party of 17 players to 13 for the first Test of the five-match series.
Captain Ricky Ponting has expressed his intention to play a slow bowler at the Gabba next week, and, although leg-spinning all-rounder Steven Smith made the cut, Doherty is almost certain to play ahead of him.
Andrew Hilditch, chairman of the national selection panel, said: “From our initial squad of 17, we have omitted four players after the most recent round of Sheffield Shield matches and the ongoing Australia A game in Hobart.
“Nathan Hauritz is one of these players omitted and he can consider himself unlucky as his Australian record has been very good over the past 12 months.
“However, the NSP believes the left-arm orthodox variety Xavier Doherty provides against a predominantly right-handed English middle order is the better option in this game.”
Doherty boasts a far from impressive first-class bowling average of 48.26, but he has impressed in state cricket this year and showed a liking for the biggest stage by taking 4-46 on his one-day international debut against Sri Lanka earlier this month.
Mike Hussey, whose place has come under heavy scrutiny following a poor run of form, appears to have won a stay of execution, due in no small part to a timely century for Western Australia against Victoria in the Sheffield Shield yesterday.
However, Callum Ferguson and Usman Khawaja - both of whom failed to press their case for a Test call-up during Australia A’s ongoing tour match against England - were omitted, along with pace bowler Ryan Harris.
“The NSP has picked what it believes to be a strong and well balanced squad, selected specifically with the conditions in Brisbane in mind,” added Hilditch.
“The squad contains a number of experienced Test players and some exciting young talent and we firmly believe it has the ability to win the first Test.
“Callum and Usman are both wonderful young players who we believe will play a big role for Australian cricket moving forward, but on this occasion the experienced middle order has been preferred.
“We felt Ryan Harris needed further time to recover from his knee injury and also believe the four fast bowlers we have selected are in good form and will be key weapons for us winning the Ashes.”
The 13-man squad will meet in Brisbane tomorrow evening ahead of their first training session on Monday. The Test starts on Friday.
Australia squad for first Ashes Test: Ricky Ponting (captain), Michael Clarke (vice-captain), Doug Bollinger, Xavier Doherty, Brad Haddin (wicketkeeper), Mike Hussey, Ben Hilfenhaus, Mitchell Johnson, Simon Katich, Marcus North, Peter Siddle, Steven Smith, Shane Watson.