Symonds and Voges shoot into Test squad
On a day of shocks for Australian cricket the selectors produced two more by picking Andrew Symonds and Adam Voges, a Western Australia batsman, in the 13-man squad for the third Test starting on Thursday. Damien Martyn began the rash of surprises by retiring and the decision was followed by Cricket Australia insisting he was part of the original outfit for Perth.
While a "flabbergasted" Symonds was an outsider, Voges was not even on the radar until Martyn walked away. Voges, a hard-hitting 27-year-old, was chosen ahead of the injured Brad Hodge and Phil Jaques, Chris Rogers and Marcus North. He did not know the news until tapped on the shoulder during the game against the England XI at Lilac Hill. Told to leave the field, he thought he was in trouble until he took the call from Michael Brown, Cricket Australia's operations manager.
"This was not an easy decision as there are many players pushing for selection, which augers well for the future," Andrew Hilditch, the chairman of selectors, said. "His inclusion in the squad is a just reward for his efforts to date." Voges has impressed during his time at the Centre of Excellence in the off-season and he started the summer strongly for Western Australia, but he was dropped last month when the state's internationals returned to face Queensland.
The Symonds Test experiment appeared to have ended after the South Africa tour when he was dumped for the Bangaldesh series in April, but the aging attack's need for assistance has provided an opening. Shane Watson, the injured allrounder, was the first choice for the spot and Symonds has a chance to add to his 10 Tests and contribute with his mix of medium pace, offspin and aggressive batting.
"I was flabbergasted when I got the call," Symonds said. "I thought I was a million to one to play this series, especially when they went for Pup [Michael Clarke] when Watto was ruled out. I dug out my baggy green the other day when I was moving some stuff around and wondered if I would ever put it on my head again. That's still up in the air but I'm obviously a fair bit closer to that moment than I thought I was."
Hilditch said there was some uncertainty over the conditions at the WACA and the pitch would be assessed closely before the XI was named. Perth's previously quick surface has become more batsman friendly and a cap for Symonds is more likely than a debut for Voges, who will gain useful experience in the squad ahead of the one-day section of the summer.
Voges has scored two Pura Cup centuries this season, including a high of 152 against Tasmania, and has 320 runs at 53.06. In the one-day competition - he owns the record for the fastest century after his 62-ball effort in 2004-05 - he has picked up 233 runs at 46.60 and posted two half-centuries. Shaun Tait has been dropped from the squad while Mitchell Johnson, the 12th man for the first two Tests, has retained his spot.
Australia squad Justin Langer, Matthew Hayden, Ricky Ponting (capt), Michael Clarke, Michael Hussey, Andrew Symonds, Adam Voges, Adam Gilchrist (wk), Shane Warne, Brett Lee, Stuart Clark, Glenn McGrath, Mitchell Johnson.
Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo