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April 1, 2008
Australia have included the uncapped trio of Beau Casson, Ashley Noffke and Ben Hilfenhaus in their 15-man Test squad to tour the West Indies next month, while Simon Katich has earned a recall after his record-breaking domestic season. The selectors also named a 14-man group for the limited-overs portion of the trip with Shaun Marsh and David Hussey the two new faces in the shorter format.
While Katich and Noffke were both expected to feature in the Test unit following outstanding Pura Cup campaigns, the selectors' major question-mark was over who to pick as spin back-up for Stuart MacGill. Throughout the season Victoria's legspinner Bryce McGain, 36, was touted as a potential mature-age call-up but Casson's strong finish to the summer made him an attractive option.
Casson, 25, collected 29 Pura Cup victims at 35.13 with his left-arm wrist-spin and also chipped in with 485 lower-order runs at 60.62. He was prominent in New South Wales' victory in the final at the SCG, where he scored 89 and grabbed four second-innings wickets.
"We have taken the opportunity to take a young spinner and by far the best performed of these during the Australian summer has been Beau Casson," the chairman of selectors Andrew Hilditch said. "His efforts with both bat and ball have been very good over the past season and we look forward to watching his development during the course of the tour."
Casson will be joined in the Caribbean by his state captain Katich, who plundered 1506 Pura Cup runs at 94.12 this season, beating Michael Bevan's existing record and stepping up with a Man-of-the-Match effort in the final when he made 86 and 92. Katich, 32, has played 23 Tests but has been out of favour with the selectors since he struggled through the 2005 Ashes tour.
Noffke's remarkable first-class collection of 51 wickets at 19.03 and 741 runs at 46.31 made him a certainty for his third trip with the squad after he travelled on the 2001 Ashes tour and visited the Caribbean in 2003. He is one of two reserve fast bowlers in the group with Hilfenhaus chosen despite a disappointing tally of 28 Pura Cup victims at 43.82 this season. Doug Bollinger, who led the Pura Cup wicket tally for most of the summer until breaking his foot in February, was overlooked.
As expected, MacGill was handed his ticket following a successful comeback from carpal-tunnel surgery on his right wrist, while the wicketkeeper Brad Haddin is set to make his Test debut in Jamaica after years of waiting behind Adam Gilchrist. Barring any unexpected injuries, Haddin should become the 400th man to receive his baggy-green cap when the series begins in Kingston on May 22.
Tests in Antigua and Barbados will follow and after the third game finishes in Bridgetown on June 16, the limited-overs squad members will remain in Barbados for a Twenty20 international. The eight-week tour concludes with a five-match ODI series that ends in St Kitts on July 6.
Victoria's Hussey, who made his Twenty20 international debut in February, was pipped by Katich in the Test unit but will make his first tour with the ODI team. Marsh, the son of the former opening batsman Geoff Marsh, was rewarded for a successful domestic summer and gives Australia an extra top-order option following Gilchrist's departure.
"Shaun Marsh is a fine young batsman who again has had a terrific year for Western Australia," Hilditch said. "We have selected him with a definite eye to the future for Australian one-day cricket."
There was no place for Adam Voges or Brad Hodge, both of whom have featured in the ODI line-up recently, however Cameron White, who slipped from the one-day radar in the past year, was added to the group. No frontline spinner was picked to replace the retired Brad Hogg, while Nathan Bracken was named subject to fitness as he recovers from knee surgery. The Test squad will gather in Brisbane for a preparation camp beginning on May 4 and will head to the Caribbean on May 10.
Test squad Matthew Hayden, Phil Jaques, Ricky Ponting (capt), Michael Hussey, Michael Clarke, Andrew Symonds, Simon Katich, Brad Haddin (wk), Ashley Noffke, Beau Casson, Brett Lee, Mitchell Johnson, Stuart Clark, Stuart MacGill, Ben Hilfenhaus.
ODI squad Matthew Hayden, Michael Clarke, Ricky Ponting (capt), Michael Hussey, Andrew Symonds, David Hussey, Shaun Marsh, Cameron White, Brad Haddin (wk), James Hopes, Brett Lee, Mitchell Johnson, Nathan Bracken, Stuart Clark.
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