Ashes 2009 May 20, 2009

McDonald in, Symonds out of Ashes squad


Andrew Symonds' colourful 26-Test career appears all but over after he was omitted from Australia's 16-man Ashes touring squad. Symonds, who turns 34 next month, was overlooked in preference of younger allrounders in Shane Watson, Andrew McDonald and Marcus North for the five-Test series against England, beginning in Cardiff on July 8.

Andrew Hilditch's selection panel remained loyal to the young squad that defeated South Africa in three out of four Tests in 2009, ensuring McDonald got the nod over candidates such as Symonds and Brad Hodge. Watson, Australia's allrounder of choice on last year's tour of India, has also earned a call-up despite only recently returning to bowling after another stint on the sideline with back stress fractures.

The move to select three all-rounders and no specialist reserve batsman is a considerable risk on the part of selectors, and leaves little wriggle room if members of the top order are beset with form or injury issues in England. But it will provide Australia with added bowling options to relieve the pressure on their paceman, all of whom shouldered heavy workloads over the past 12 months, resulting in injuries to the likes of Brett Lee, Stuart Clark and Peter Siddle.

"Without a doubt this is the one of the most flexible squads we've taken away and that's something I think the selectors were really looking for," coach Tim Nielsen wrote on his blog. "Shane Watson adds plenty for us; he's played well for Australia over the last little while in the one-day arena and has shown that he can make hundreds at the top of the order and bat anywhere between one and seven. Obviously when he gets over his groin injury we expect him to be able to bowl which will add another dimension to our squad also."

The inclusions of Watson and McDonald were the only contentious calls in an otherwise predictable Australian touring party. The five-man pace contingent largely selected itself - although Doug Bollinger can consider himself a trifle unlucky - and competition will be on in earnest when the Australians commence their first tour game against Sussex at Hove on June 24. Mitchell Johnson and Lee are likely to be given first shot at the new ball, leaving Clark, Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus to duel for the final one or two slots, depending on whether Nathan Hauritz, the specialist spinner, is played.

The make-up of the Australian top order also went to script. The top six from the tour of South Africa were all retained, and Brad Haddin, unsurprisingly, held his position. Haddin will be supported on tour by back-up wicketkeeper Graham Manou.

"The Ashes squad contains an exciting blend of experience and youth," Hilditch said. "The core of the squad is made up of the side which successfully won the Test series in South Africa and includes Phillip Hughes and Marcus North who both scored hundreds on debut.

"The young fast-bowling group which performed so well in South Africa of Peter Siddle, Mitchell Johnson and Ben Hilfenhaus will all be taking part in their first Ashes tour to England and as shown in South Africa, they have the skills to perform at the international level and will be well suited to English conditions. The bowling group has been further strengthened by the return from injury of Brett Lee and Stuart Clark."

The omission of Symonds was not entirely surprising given his recent controversial history and the strong cases presented by Watson, McDonald and North, but is notable after Ricky Ponting's glowing endorsement on the eve of the squad selection. Ponting, though, was philosophical when assessing Symonds' exclusion on Wednesday.

"I can't personally be disappointed," he said. "The facts are he (Symonds) went out of the side ... and we gave opportunities to others and they've played well enough to keep Andrew out of the squad. That's as simple as it has to be."

Squad Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke, Stuart Clark, Brad Haddin, Nathan Hauritz, Ben Hilfenhaus, Phillip Hughes, Michael Hussey, Mitchell Johnson, Simon Katich, Brett Lee, Graham Manou, Andrew McDonald, Marcus North, Peter Siddle, Shane Watson.

Alex Brown is deputy editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Brenton on May 22, 2009, 2:28 GMT

    No spare specialist batsmen in a touring Ashes squad? Two part time all-rounders? Manou should be playing county cricket as second keeper. The selectors should have told Manou months ago to seek a County contract. Mcdonald out, bats at 10 and bowls 125km/h, not test standard. Watson out, not a test number 6 and not in best 5 bowlers. Probably will get injured anyway. Hodge should be at number 6, no questions asked. If there was 2 spare batsmen and 2 spare bowlers in the squad it gives the fexibilty the selectors are after and keeps the blokes in the XI on their toes.

  • Narayanan on May 21, 2009, 9:19 GMT

    The Opening Pair of Hughes and Katich should bat well. If not they will not be having any option of altering the opening stand. So Phil Jaques should have been selected instead of Mcdonald. In the bowling front, Bracken or Bollinger could have been given a chance as they swing the ball into the righthander.

  • Manish on May 21, 2009, 7:40 GMT

    problem with hodge is that he is a victorian...and australian selectors dont care about victorians however Mcdonald is lucky in this scenario....they should have selected symonds for mcdonald ..... hodge should have been given a chance .... i guess we will see a repeat of 2005...

  • C.Felix on May 21, 2009, 7:04 GMT

    Instead of Manou, Brad Hodge or David Hussey could have been selected, as Mr. Cricket has had wicketkeeping experience in England since his Under-23 days.

    The omission of Nathan Bracken will deplete the fast-bowling ranks, as he could provide able relief and/or support to Johnson.

    Symonds' omission is appreciated. Watson did extremely well in India. McDonald could have made way for a second spinner in Krejza or Casson.

    Hayden, Warne, Gilchrist and McGrath will be missed forever by Australia.

  • Ravi Kumar on May 21, 2009, 4:54 GMT

    After looking at this squad, England will probably fancy their chances of regaining the Ashes. Two of Australia'a main quicks, Johnson and Lee, are not too fond of alien bowling conditions, as their record shows. As for the rest, Stuart Clark is accurate without being overly threatening, while Hilfenhaus may not be in the first XI. Siddle definitely looks like a good bet. Also, against England spin is always a good option but it is strange why Australia have left out Krejza who seemed to show a lot of promise in India, and included Hauritz.

  • Simon on May 21, 2009, 3:23 GMT

    i really dont understand the Aus selectors at the mo. I mean, whatever happened to picking the best 16 players. For some reason they are obsessed with finding an allrounder. Why? Australia has a strong tail, Brad Haddin is a good batsman, Johnson is aslo good. We dont need an allrounder. Why not pick another batsman like Hodge or Rogers or another bowler?

  • Stuart on May 20, 2009, 20:45 GMT

    Why on earth do the selectors persist with Shane Watson? Time and time again this level of cricket gets the better of his body and he hasn't even done anything noteworthy in the 4 years he has been picked. Would have taken Callum Ferguson instead as he has some real potential and squad is lacking a solid back up batsman if M Hussey or North come to grief. Otherwise, no gripes with the squad, they all performed in South Africa deserve to be picked again.

  • Atul on May 20, 2009, 17:47 GMT

    I don't think McDonald cuts the mustard at the highest level. The four pace bowlers select themselves really; with Lee, Clark opening the bowling and either Johnson or Siddle at first change. Clark is competent enough to swing the ball (both conventional and reverse) and is really a better bowler than Lee in that respect. I'm sure he will be the leading wicket-taker for Australia this series.

    I would not pick the spinner, however unfortunate for Krejza, since he has not played enough Test cricket since India. It's better for Australia to go in with the four pacemen, than to experiment with a spinner, especially given the sheer number of selections since the retirement of Brad Hogg.

  • Shankar on May 20, 2009, 17:46 GMT

    Hodge and Bollinger should be in the squad. Six batsman is one too few. I am not sure why everyone is raving about McDonald. He seems almost an English selection - bat a bit, bowl a bit but not too much of either. And Shane Watson - is he in as a bowler? a batsman? all rounder? Hussey has not been in good form and Ponting doesnt have the regality of old either. The batting should have been bolstered when you consider that 3 of the top 6 have never batted in a test in England.

  • Rehan on May 20, 2009, 17:43 GMT

    I cannot believe McDonald is in the squad. He literally is there to just make up the numbers, and why wouldn't you rather have Symonds in to make up the numbers? I'm also puzzled that Hilfenhaus was picked over Bollinger. Just look at how well he played against Pakistan in the ODIs! And regarding poor old Hodgy, I think the selectors really stuffed him up - I reckon he would have turned out a fine Test cricketer. Anyway.

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