Sydney: Australia named a 17-man squad on Monday for the first Ashes test against England in Brisbane as selectors looked to keep their options open after injuries and poor form struck some of their key players.
Left-armed spinner Xavier Doherty was the biggest surprise in the party for the Gabba test, the 29-year-old having made his one-day international debut against Sri Lanka just 12 days ago.
Uncapped batsmen Usman Khawaja and Callum Ferguson as well as leg-spinner Steve Smith -- all set to face England for Australia A this week -- were other inclusions who should keep the more experienced players focused.
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"It's a longer squad than normal primarily because we want to take a look at the next round of Sheffield Shield games and the very important Australia A series," chief selector Andrew Hilditch told a handful of fans at a rain-soaked announcement at Sydney's Circular Quay.
"The squad will be reduced to 12 or 13 immediately before the players arrive in Brisbane. It will be a lot of pressure on the players with such a big squad."
Vice-captain Michael Clarke (back), opener Simon Katich (thumb) and Doug Bollinger (side) were named despite injury concerns, as was fast bowler Ryan Harris, who suffered swelling to his injured knee up after his return to action last week.
Offspinner Nathan Hauritz has also been given a chance to prove his critics wrong after poor recent displays on the international stage but the inclusion of two other spinners in the squad will keep the pressure on him.
Experienced middle-order batsmen Mike Hussey and Marcus North are retained but will have to be on their toes with big-scoring Pakistan-born Khawaja and Ferguson waiting in the wings.Chelsea stunned 3-0 by inspired Sunderland
England, who are defending the Ashes, will name their team on the first morning of the first test on Nov. 25 but, barring injury, few surprises are expected.
"At the moment they are a pretty settled side, there's no doubt about that, and they've been playing some pretty good cricket for the last couple years," said Australia captain Ricky Ponting.
"We've introduced a lot of new faces in all forms of the game and most of those guys have stood up and played well."
Squad - Ricky Ponting (captain), Michael Clarke (vice-captain), Doug Bollinger, Xavier Doherty, Callum Ferguson, Ryan Harris, Nathan Hauritz, Mike Hussey, Ben Hilfenhaus, Mitchell Johnson, Simon Katich, Usman Khawaja, Marcus North, Peter Siddle, Steven Smith, Shane Watson, Brad Haddin (wicketkeeper).