Siddle and Haddin named for international return
Peter Siddle is set to play his first match for Australia in nine months after being named in the squad for Sunday's Twenty20 against Sri Lanka at the WACA. The wicketkeeper Brad Haddin will also make his comeback after a long injury lay-off and will replace Tim Paine, while Michael Hussey and Mitchell Johnson have been rested.
The 12-man squad for the first international of the home summer is made up entirely of Victoria and New South Wales players and features the spinner Steve O'Keefe, who made his debut for Australia in England in July. John Hastings, the Victoria allrounder who played his first ODI last week in India, has also been included for a potential Twenty20 debut.
The non-selection of Hussey and Johnson is understandable, as they will instead warm up for the Ashes with a Sheffield Shield match for Western Australia against South Australia beginning this Friday. However, the same theory was not used for the Test opener Shane Watson, who will play the Twenty20 instead of a first-class outing for New South Wales against Queensland that begins on the same day.
Watson, Haddin and the captain Michael Clarke are the only Test certainties included in the Twenty20 line-up, although every player will have the chance for at least one Sheffield Shield game before the first Ashes Test. Siddle is also aiming to re-establish his credentials after spending the winter laid up with a stress fracture in his back.
Siddle, 25, had been a regular member of the Test attack until his injury struck, but he faces a challenge to force his way back in ahead of one of Mitchell Johnson, Doug Bollinger or Ben Hilfenhaus. His best chance might be if the selectors choose four fast men on a potentially seam-friendly Gabba pitch for the first Test.
"Peter is a key bowler in all forms of the game and has made a return from injury and is now ready to take his place in this Australia Twenty20 squad," the chairman of selectors, Andrew Hilditch, said. Siddle made his initial return for Victoria in the Champions League Twenty20, and is now playing in the Sheffield Shield match against Tasmania.
Haddin is also on his way back after a lengthy period on the sidelines, having not played for Australia since May due to an elbow problem. His absence allowed Paine to prove himself an impressive option at Test and one-day level, but there is no doubt that Haddin will remain the No. 1 man for the Ashes.
Hilditch said: "It is unfortunate for Tim Paine, having played so well for Australia recently, to miss out on this squad but Brad has made a very good recovery from his elbow injury and is an established member of our side in all forms of the game.
"The squad also sees some of our best young talent continuing to increase their international experience and exposure. Players like Steve Smith, Stephen O'Keefe and John Hastings all have exciting all-round skills for Twenty20 cricket and it will be great to see them against a very strong Sri Lanka squad."
Daniel Christian and Nathan Hauritz, who were in Australia's ICC World Twenty20 squad this year, were left out, while Ryan Harris and Shaun Tait were unavailable due to injuries. And there was no place for Brett Lee, who is in the early stages of his comeback after an injury-plagued year and had been keen to target the Sri Lanka series for an international return.
"It would have been his plan to be ready for this but with only two one-day games after an extensive break we want to see him play a bit more domestic cricket yet," Hilditch said. "Certainly there was a lengthy discussion even for this squad, but it really felt too early."
Australia squad David Warner, Shane Watson, Brad Haddin (wk), Michael Clarke (capt), Cameron White, David Hussey, Steven Smith, John Hastings, Steve O'Keefe, Peter Siddle, Clint McKay, Dirk Nannes.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at Cricinfo