Doherty in Test squad, Hauritz dropped
The offspinner Nathan Hauritz has been dropped for the first Ashes Test and been replaced by the spinners Xavier Doherty and Steven Smith, who have been included in the 13-man squad to face England on Thursday. Doherty, the left-arm orthodox from Tasmania, is a surprise inclusion after a bright start to the summer and the selectors hope he will be a threat for the right-handers in England's order.
Doherty is now a certainty to play from Thursday while Smith, the legspinning allrounder, is likely to be considered more closely for the second game in Adelaide. Michael Hussey was selected after his century for Western Australia on Friday while Marcus North, the other under-pressure batsman, was also included.
Four men were cut from the inflated 17-man unit chosen in Sydney on Monday. Callum Ferguson and Usman Khawaja failed to impress for Australia A in Hobart this week while Ryan Harris' knee makes him too much of a risk for such an important engagement.
However, it is the omission of Hauritz, Australia's first-choice spinner since the 2009 Ashes, that is the biggest change. Hauritz struggled during the two Tests in India last month and has been under-bowled since returning home. He was given only six balls in New South Wales' Sheffield Shield game against Tasmania, in which Doherty collected two victims, including bowling Simon Katich around his legs.
"Nathan Hauritz is one of these players omitted and he can consider himself unlucky as his Australian record has been very good over the past 12 months," Andrew Hilditch, the chairman of selectors, said. "However the panel believes the left-arm orthodox variety Xavier Doherty provides against a predominantly right-handed English middle order is the better option in this game."
Kevin Pietersen is not as comfortable against left-arm slow bowlers, with Steve O'Keefe adding to his problems by bowling him for 5 in the first innings in Hobart. England have two left-handed openers in Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook in their preferred XI, along with the bowlers Stuart Broad and James Anderson.
Doherty's overall career average is 48.26 in 35 first-class games and he has only been a regular in the Tasmanian outfit since the start of the season. The past six Shield contests over two summers have earned him 23 wickets and he has impressed his state team-mate Ricky Ponting, whose captaincy career relies on what happens during the Ashes.
Doug Bollinger returns to the squad after recovering from the stomach injury that ruled him out of the second Test in India last month. Bollinger was hit for six as Tasmania beat New South Wales yesterday, but he gained three wickets in the first innings and will battle with Peter Siddle for the final bowling place alongside Mitchell Johnson and Ben Hilfenhaus. The squad will arrive in Brisbane on Sunday.
Australia squad Simon Katich, Shane Watson, Ricky Ponting (capt), Michael Clarke, Michael Hussey, Marcus North, Brad Haddin (wk), Steven Smith, Mitchell Johnson, Xavier Doherty, Peter Siddle, Ben Hilfenhaus, Doug Bollinger.
Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo