Joe Burns and Usman Khawaja have been preferred to the younger Cameron Bancroft in Australia’s 12-man squad for the first two Tests against New Zealand. Burns is set to be the new opening partner for David Warner following the retirement of Chris Rogers at the end of the Ashes, while Khawaja’s most likely position is at No.3 if Steven Smith moves down to No.4 as expected.
There was no room for either Bancroft or Shaun Marsh, both of whom were part of the squad for the abandoned tour of Bangladesh. Not surprisingly, four fast men have been named – Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Peter Siddle – with one of them likely to be made 12th man for the first Test at the Gabba starting on Thursday.
It will be Australia’s first Test since the post-Ashes retirements of Rogers, Michael Clarke, Brad Haddin and Shane Watson, but the inclusion of Burns and Khawaja means that no new baggy greens will be handed out. Khawaja played the most recent of his nine Tests on the 2013 Ashes tour, while Burns scored twin half-centuries in the second of his two Tests against India last summer.
“We will need to play at our best to beat a very talented New Zealand side, but we think this squad has the goods to do it and also provides an opportunity for some exciting younger players to make their mark in the Test arena,” national selector Rod Marsh said. “Usman is a very good player of fast-bowling and is a fine technician; we feel he will make a really solid contribution towards our batting this series.
“Joe thoroughly deserves his chance and was unlucky to miss out on the West Indies and Ashes tours off the back of two decent performances in his last Test match for Australia in Sydney. He also put in terrific performances during the recent Australia A Series in India.”
Khawaja, 28, and Burns, 26, now have the chance to make long-term positions in Australia’s top order their own, while the older Adam Voges, 36, is viewed as an important leader with plenty of first-class experience during this period of changeover. Voges has retained his spot at No.5, while the allrounder Mitchell Marsh is set to stay at No.6.
“Adam is a calm player with a cool head and brings a lot of experience to the side,” Marsh said. “He has a solid Test and first-class average and will provide good support to our two young leaders in Steve Smith and David Warner. Mitchell provides good balance as the all-rounder and we believe he has a great future as a player for Australia.”
Peter Nevill will play a Test match at home for the first time after he replaced Haddin during the Ashes series, and the make-up of the attack remains the main question leading into the Gabba Test. Hazlewood was dropped for the final Ashes Test at The Oval, where Siddle performed well as his replacement, and it is likely that one of them will be the bowler to miss out.
“We are pleased with how our bowling unit is going at the moment,” Marsh said. “Both Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood had fantastic performances in the Matador Cup and Mitchell Johnson looks ready to fire after a decent break. Off the back of a great bowling performance in the last Test Peter Siddle earns his selection with Nathan Lyon, a proven performer in the side rounding out our attack.”
Australia squad David Warner, Joe Burns, Usman Khawaja, Steven Smith (capt), Adam Voges, Mitchell Marsh, Peter Nevill (wk), Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc, Peter Siddle, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood
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