India in Australia 2011-12 December 21, 2011

Cowan, Marsh, Hilfenhaus named for Boxing Day


Ed Cowan, the Tasmania opening batsman currently among the runs, has been picked for Australia's Boxing Day Test team to face India and will be joined in the top three by Shaun Marsh provided the West Australian can prove his fitness.

Ben Hilfenhaus has also earned a recall, the selectors seeking an experienced head to help a young bowling attack battle India's batsmen at the MCG.

Cowan and Marsh replaced Phillip Hughes and Usman Khawaja from the XI that was beaten by New Zealand in Hobart, with Shane Watson and Ryan Harris unable to be chosen due to continued fitness complaints.

Watson aggravated a calf problem on day one of the team's batting camp in Melbourne, while Harris indicated he was short of the required conditioning after returning to cricket for the Brisbane Heat in last night's BBL match at the Gabba.

John Inverarity, the national selector, said Cowan would open the batting, with Marsh and Daniel Christian to vie for one spot and Hilfenhaus and Mitchell Starc the other.

"Ed has been in wonderful form, and the intention is that he will open the batting with David Warner," Inverarity said. "Of the XI that will line up on December 26, it will either be Shaun Marsh or Daniel Christian.

"It is likely if Shaun plays that he'll be batting at No. 3, if Daniel plays then he'd be at No. 6 and the batting line-up would be re-arranged accordingly, and then it would seem likely that one of Mitchell Starc and Ben Hilfenhaus would be 12th man. That's the anticipated balance of the side but we'll have to wait on weather and pitch conditions and final form and fitness."

Inverarity said Marsh's need to show his back can stand up to the rigours of a Test match caused the naming of a 13-man squad.

"The NSP has named 13 players due to the ongoing uncertainty about the fitness of Shaun Marsh," Inverarity said. "Shane Watson was not considered for selection as he has not recovered sufficiently from his injury. Ryan Harris has not yet achieved the volume of bowling required to be available for consideration for Test selection.

"Ed Cowan has been in excellent form in recent weeks. His inclusion is in recognition of his consistently good performances and we anticipate that he can provide steadiness at the top of the order. Ben Hilfenhaus has regained form this season and he provides a strong and reliable bowling option.

"We see both Phillip Hughes and Usman Khawaja as developing players with bright futures and remaining as players of significance. They are determined young men and I know that they will work hard to produce compelling performances and push strongly for further consideration."

Since turning around an indifferent start to the season with an unbeaten 91 in a limited overs match against South Australia in Burnie in mid-November, Cowan's scores have been 4, 134*, 145, 10, 65, 145* and 109 in the first innings of the tour match against the Indians.

His strong form has been mirrored by Hilfenhaus, who has shown greater snap and swing this summer, most recently for Hobart in the Twenty20 competition, after he looked innocuous at times against England during last summer's Ashes series. He was also considered close to selection for the New Zealand series, though the selectors ultimately decided to test out a younger attack as a precursor to India's visit.

"Ben Hilfenhaus is in very good form," Inverarity said. "I think he had a few body concerns and his action deteriorated a little bit last year and he seems to have got it back and been playing in very good form. He is a strong, durable, experienced bowler.

"It [the T20 match in Perth] certainly wasn't a negative, he bowled very well, but we've been considering Ben for some weeks and he provides a strong, durable experienced option for us."

Watson's case is more problematic, as he has now suffered a trio of fitness problems since the start of the South Africa tour. Inverarity said the panel was hopeful Watson would be fit to play in the second Test of the India series in Sydney.

"Shane is not fit to play. He's had ongoing troubles with his calf," Inverarity said. "The situation is improving and we hope he'll be in contention for the second Test in Sydney. But he's not available to play this game. It is an option for him to bat down the order, yes. The word from Shane Watson was that he was not fit to play. I wasn't in Melbourne yesterday but he spoke at length with Mickey Arthur and the word was he's not ready."

Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey remain part of the Test team despite poor displays in Hobart and advancing years, Inverarity speaking of their value to the dressing room as a critical factor in their continued retention.

"They've both been wonderful cricketers, they are wonderful cricketers, and terrific men and provide a lot for the side," he said. "We all on the selection panel are keen for them to do well. We're hoping they have a breakthrough in the next week or two. They offer a tremendous amount to the side."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Roo on December 24, 2011, 0:05 GMT

    @JG2704... The problem with which Oz team turns up is basically down to batting... Our bowlers have been doing their job, with Lyon the leading wicket-taker this year for Oz... Look at Hughes, Watson, Ponting, Haddin scores this year & you can see why we have failed... Throw in bad Tests by Clarke & Hussey it has been amazing we won 1 series & drew the other 2... It is the new members that have been making the difference - Marsh, Lyon, Pattinson, Warner...

  • Basil on December 23, 2011, 22:39 GMT

    The reason why Aus is so up and down is injuries. Very rarely is the best team on the park. Also persisting with guys out of form doesn't help either. If all fit our best three quicks would be Harris, Cummins, and Patterson, with Watto as a back up seamer. Three of those 4 are injured. As for the batting Watson and Marsh have been out, and Hussey, Ponting, and Hughes have been in without any form at all. Lesson- you can't carry out of form players when too many of your A graders are missing.

  • John on December 23, 2011, 13:45 GMT

    Re the Australian selection. It seems to me that very few people are in agreement of their best side right now. As others have said , it seems to be their batting more than their bowling that lets them down but it seems that the selectors have a mindset whereby they have little trust in their younger batsmen and keep their trust in Ponting and Hussey who have recently proved unreliable anyway. I like the way many fans are keeping faith with Khawaja despite his modest returns. I actually liked the look of Hilfenhaus when he played England , but have not followed his career so I cant say whether he is worthy of a recall. Copeland seems to be a name that crops up alot with fans so I wonder why he is being overlooked? Personally I think they should prob start from scratch and build a new look team around Clarke, Watson, Cummings and possibly Warner and Lyon

  • John on December 23, 2011, 13:45 GMT

    I do see some Indian fans giving it the whitewash prediction - some Australian's too. I think it's a tough one to call and alot depends on which Australia turn up. Is Cummings anywhere near returning? Australia are a strange side who seem capable of both clutching the most unlikely victory and folding under pressure. If the Australia which levelled the series vs SA turn up they have a great shout. If the Australia who conceded the 2nd test to NZ turn up then they could be in trouble. Australia's form seems to turn test by test. India also have plenty to prove on seaming pitches. Maybe the England tour was a case of India hitting their worst form at the same time as England hit their best form. A fascinating contest.

  • John on December 23, 2011, 13:44 GMT

    @davidpk on (December 21 2011, 16:05 PM GMT) - I actually believed him as compared to the rest of our batsmen Strauss seemed to be struggling , but it's quite funny that a fact designed to try and wind the English up is actually incorrect. Have a good Xmas/2012

  • Dummy4 on December 23, 2011, 4:05 GMT

    @Nathan30, I like the look of your team but i would shift the order to have, Cowan, Warner, Marsh then Watson and Clarke, at number 6 id give Tom Cooper from SA a run because he is on the up and has been playing really well, then id hav WADE keeper and then the same bowling group u suggested

  • Roo on December 23, 2011, 3:32 GMT

    @RandyOZ... Christian or another allrounder is what Oz needs atm... Looking at our better performances in recent times Watson's bowling was important... Often only 1 paceman & Lyon took most of the wkts - Starc looked very nervous even in 2nd Test... Expect selectors to pick Hilfy for his endurance bowling (thus no 5th bowler)... as he ranks down the order in this seasons SS strike rate @34th... We need the likes of Harris, Cummins, Cutting, M Marsh, Butterworth out bowling...

  • Roo on December 23, 2011, 3:25 GMT

    @Nathan30... @RandyOZ... I watched Gilchrist leave NSW just to get a State wicketkeeper start... Then I waited for years for the selectors to give him a Test start, when he was already the most outstanding wicketkeeper/batsman in the world... Just before his 28th birthday, after being 21 in his first SS game - ridiculous... Time for the selectors to have a serious look at Wade / Neville for the WI Tour... I'd take them both & give them a game each...

  • Roo on December 23, 2011, 3:21 GMT

    @Meety... "if the players is good enough to be selected for one discipline first & then bring another discipline to the table of good quality! I don't quite see that with Christian"... So Christian with a batting average of 59.38 this SS season isn't good enough... lol... His batting alone puts him above Ponting, Hussey... Butterworth batting @28.0... Marsh @28.5... Faulkner @29.4... I can see Christian as a no.6 batter but the others are only no.8's in a Test team... O'Keefe hasn't bowled that well this year, but only played 3 games so hard to tell... James Hopes is similar player to O'Keefe & as unlucky as well...

  • Green on December 23, 2011, 2:05 GMT

    If Ryan Harris is fit why isn't he playing in place of Starc? Harris must come in and Starc needs to get it right before he can be selected again. Selectors have made a good move by dropping Hughes and Khawaja, and bringing in Cowan, Marsh and Christian. Hilfenhaus is an OK descion. the way he tied up the perth scorchers in the BBL was fantastic. The only problem is that if Ponting, Clarke and Hussey keep their spots, one of the batters will miss out. Brad Haddin should be the first player to go but no reserve WK called up. troubling times.

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