Peter Siddle in PM's XI for New Zealand
Australia fast bowler Peter Siddle's lack of cricket during the Matador Cup has compelled the national selectors to give the New Zealand tourists an unexpected sighter of one of their likely Test opponents in two warm-up matches in Canberra.
In addition to joining Michael Hussey in the day-night Prime Minister's XI fixture to be played with a pink ball on Friday, Siddle will also play the two-day match with a red ball from Saturday.
It is unusual for any touring team to be given a sight of the bowlers they are likely to face in the Tests, with the host nation preferring to field lesser combinations that mean a significant step up to international contests. However, Australia's selectors were left without a choice by the Bushrangers' preference for James Pattinson, John Hastings and Scott Boland in their limited overs XI.
Some have suggested that Siddle might have played in the Cricket Australia XI added to this year's Matador Cup as a way of affording further opportunities for younger players, but this possibility seems not to have been considered in the short timeframe that followed the postponement of Australia's tour of Bangladesh. That decision left numerous players without their previously planned schedules, leading to criticism of how the Australian team will lead into the Gabba.
Mitchell Johnson pointed out that it was "not ideal" for the hosts to be playing one Sheffield Shield game with the pink ball before playing two Tests with the red and then the first day-night Test in Adelaide to conclude the series. Meanwhile New Zealand get a pink-ball game against the PM's XI, then two red-ball warm-ups in Canberra and Sydney, before another pink-ball practice fixture in Perth between the second and third Tests.
Australia's coach Darren Lehmann had previously speculated that Siddle might be left with only club cricket ahead of the sole Sheffield Shield round that precedes the first Test of the summer at the Gabba, after expressing his displeasure at how Victoria had declined to play him in their Matador Cup team.
However the selection chairman Rod Marsh said the need to give Siddle decent match practice ahead of the Trans-Tasman series had overruled any desire to keep the Test bowlers away from New Zealand before they reached Brisbane.
"We believe it is important to field a strong squad against what we know will be a very competitive New Zealand side in these tour matches," Marsh said. "Peter performed well at The Oval in the final Ashes Test and as part of his preparation for the summer we want to give him some high-standard match practice.
"These tour matches and the first round of the Sheffield Shield give Peter important opportunities to impress ahead of the Test series."
Having spent the past two weeks running drinks and looking on from the sidelines, Siddle was relieved to be getting a chance to play anywhere. He will link up with the PM's XI coaching duo of Ryan Harris and Greg Blewett next week.
"It's truly an honour to be selected in the Prime Minister's side," Siddle said. "I haven't played in that match before and I'm really looking forward to it and the following two-day tour match. This will give me a good opportunity to experience the pink ball as well as face-off against New Zealand. "It will be great to work alongside Mike as captain and I'm looking forward to seeing who else may be selected in the squad."
Siddle went to England for the Ashes without the security of a CA contract, and will need to play more Test cricket this summer if he is to secure an incremental version of the deal he had held consistently over the past seven years.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig