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October 28, 2013
Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh and Alex Doolan will contend for Australia's Ashes No. 6 spot among the batsmen given an early sight of England through selection for Australia A in the tour match against the visitors at Bellerive Oval from November 6.
The trio are part of a team that mixes potential Test aspirants with cricketers further back in the queue, after the selectors weighed up the merit of their playing against the Englishmen or for their own states in the concurrent Sheffield Shield round.
Marsh and Khawaja will be particularly keen to show their worth following strong form in the domestic limited overs competition, while Doolan and Callum Ferguson are among others who have the opportunity to push themselves up a changeable batting order of preference by making runs against the tourists.
"We have struck a balance in what we think is the appropriate Australia A team to face England, while ensuring individuals have a solid preparation and chance to impress," the national selector John Inverarity said.
"There were clearly a number of players under consideration to play for Australia A in this match, however we have long been aware that 77 cricketers would be playing across these four days and due to various circumstances we have balanced our interests with what we feel is in the best interests for each player, their preparation and chance to push for higher honours.
"While these next couple of rounds of Shield cricket are important, the NSP is well advanced in its planning around the squad for the first Test.
"Players returning from one-day duties in India and not named for Australia A may play in the Sheffield Shield fixtures played concurrently with the Australia A fixture if it is considered that it is in their interests and the interest of their States' to be included."
Khawaja caught the selectors' eye on Sunday as much for a blinding catch at backward point to dismiss Steve Smith as his composed century in Queensland's successful chase. An improvement to Khawaja's fielding was among the areas Inverarity and his panel had been hoping to see the left-hander advance.
"It was a fantastic catch and Usman played very well," Inverarity said. "It's difficult to judge [from the domestic limited overs competition] but all I would say is a lot of runs were scored at North Sydney and a lot of players looked very good. It's a beautifully even-paced bounce, a lot of players playing there looked very good."
As was the case against South Africa a year ago, the team is stronger on batting than bowling, the Queenslander Ben Cutting and the Victoria left-arm spinner Jon Holland providing the greatest threat to England's batsmen in an attack that also features Trent Copeland and the captain Moises Henriques.
Cutting's allround potential has not been lost on Inverarity, who said that how far the fast man's batting advanced, and his place up the order with it, would be entirely up to him.
"He's got a very good bat swing and a very good technique, and he's a very good hitter of the ball. Where his batting goes in the future is verymuch up to him," Inverarity said. "He's a very clean striker, a beautiful bat swing. We've got a high level of interest with Ben at international level, particularly in the white-ball format."
Australia A squad Moises Henriques (capt), Glenn Maxwell, Trent Copeland, Ben Cutting, Alex Doolan, Callum Ferguson, Jon Holland, Usman Khawaja, Michael Klinger, Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Daniel Brettig
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