Ireland v Australia, ODI, Stormont June 22, 2012

David Hussey given Test hope

David Hussey's hopes of a belated call-up to the Australian Test team at the age of 34 are no longer as forlorn as they once seemed. John Inverarity, the national selector, has said that Hussey's inclusion in the slimline Cricket Australia contract list for 2012-13 indicates he is, alongside the uncontracted Peter Forrest and George Bailey, at the front of the queue for Test batting places.

On his arrival in the United Kingdom for Australia's ODI tour, Hussey said he had never felt more comfortable in the national set-up than he did right now, and expressed optimism that he might still earn the baggy green cap that has eluded him over a prolific first-class batting career. At times he has been passed over for lesser credentialed batsmen, but Inverarity said that now he was as close as ever, needing to perform staunchly over the next 12 months to push his way in.

"If you look at the middle order options should we need replacements," Inverarity said. "We have got our top six at the moment but if you are looking for a middle order option and the ones that come very much to mind are Peter Forrest, George Bailey and David Hussey. They are the ones that are to the fore at the moment."

The dearth of highly performing young batsmen coming through the Australian system has been a cause of concern for some time, as indicated by the fact that Inverarity and his fellow selectors - the captain Michael Clarke excepted - chose only six specialist batsmen out of 17. The onus now is on Bailey, Forrest, Steve Smith and others including Phil Hughes and Usman Khawaja to lift their standards.

"It has been a case for many years in Australian history. Bradman in the 1930s, Neil Harvey, Greg Chappell, Ricky Ponting, Doug Walters all these types of players coming through," Inverarity said. "We would very much like to have some of those players emerging. We need more good young middle order batsmen coming through. At the moment they are not really obvious but we have some good back-up players in Bailey, Forrest and David Hussey."

In contrast to Hussey, Ed Cowan is a Test batsman, having now played seven matches, but did not receive a contract, partly due to his Test-only status, and partly because he is yet to fully grasp the spot he was given on Boxing Day against India. Inverarity is an unabashed fan of Cowan's intelligence and even temper, and described him as an "integral" member of the Test XI.

"Everyone must keep performing, but Ed is firmly in place as our opening batsman at the moment. He is firmly in place," Inverarity said. "He is a fine young man, an intelligent man and he is an integral part of the test team. We have in as captain of the Australia A team and we think he has real leadership potential. He has four matches in England which will be terrific preparations for the Ashes the following season."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here