SYDNEY, (Reuters) – Usman Khawaja has been handed the chance to audition for an Ashes place after being named in the Australia A side to face England two weeks before the first test.
Shaun Marsh, Alex Doolan and Callum Ferguson will also be keen to press their claims in Hobart from Nov. 6-9, the last match the tourists play before Australia name their squad for the first test in Brisbane.
Khawaja played three of the five tests in the first Ashes series of the year but was dumped for the final match after managing to average 19 runs over six innings.
Blistering form for Queensland in the domestic one-day championship, including a century to help his adopted state win the Ryobi Cup last weekend, has since put him back in the frame for a test spot.
Marsh, like Khawaja a lefthander, played the last of his seven tests against India in Adelaide in January 2012 but has also been in good form for Western Australia.
One batting spot unlikely to be up for grabs, however, is that of captain Michael Clarke, who wrote in a newspaper column that he expected to play all five Ashes tests despite his degenerative back injury.
“I feel a lot better and believe I will be able to play every test this summer in the same way I played all five tests on the Ashes tour earlier this year,” Clarke, who will return to action for New South Wales this week if he passes a fitness test, wrote in the Daily Telegraph.
“My back originally flared up six years before my first test and I have now played 97, missing just one because of my back.”
Clarke also defended Australia’s decision to undertake a one-day tour of India so close to the start of the Ashes, which England will be looking to win for the fourth consecutive series.
“Concerns have been raised that England are already in Perth preparing for the Ashes while our team is still playing in India but I don’t think that is an issue at all,” he said.
“It’s great to see guys making runs and taking wickets, whether it be in India or during the just completed Ryobi Cup.
“I’m glad I’m no longer a selector because it’s going to be a tough call deciding the final make-up of the first test team.”
All-rounder Moises Henriques will captain the Australia A side, which has been selected to avoid overly-weakening any one state team for the round of the Sheffield Shield that takes place concurrently with the four-day Hobart match.
England play a three-day match against a Western Australia XI before the Hobart match and another four-day match against New South Wales the week before the first Ashes test, which begins on Nov. 21.
Australia A: Moises Henriques (captain), Glenn Maxwell, Trent Copeland, Ben Cutting, Alex Doolan, Callum Ferguson, Jon Holland, Usman Khawaja, Michael Klinger, Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine.