Usman Khawaja and Travis Head set to compete for Australia's final batting spot

Michael Neser and Jhye Richardson are the back-up quicks; Mitchell Marsh named in Australia A group

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
Usman Khawaja could return to the Test side this season  •  Getty Images

Usman Khawaja could return to the Test side this season  •  Getty Images

Travis Head and Usman Khawaja are set to battle it out for the final middle-order spot in Australia's Test side having been included in a 15-player squad for the first two matches of the men's Ashes next month.
Michael Neser, who is recovering from a mild hamstring strain, and Jhye Richardson have been included as the pace-bowling support to Australia's main three quicks while Mitchell Swepson provides spin back-up to Nathan Lyon.
Last week national selector George Bailey endorsed Marcus Harris to open alongside David Warner while Cameron Green is set to retain his spot at No. 6.
"Marcus has been a consistent run scorer domestically and had a strong winter further developing his game with Leicestershire. He is a good player who will be looking to build a strong partnership with David Warner at the top of the order," Bailey said on confirmation of the squad.
"Travis finished last summer strongly, second only to Cameron Green for runs scored, and has again started the season well. He drives the game forward and can put the opposition under pressure with his ability to score quickly.
"Similarly, Usman Khawaja has been in great touch. He brings a calm, consistent and experienced component to the batting line up and is a proven run scorer at Test level. He also has the ability to bat across a range of positions in the batting order."
Khawaja, who last played Test cricket during the 2019 Ashes, is currently the leading run-scorer in the Sheffield Shield. Head, meanwhile, had been in line for a recall on the postpended tour of South Africa earlier this year after previously losing his spot midway through the India series.
The only player from Australia's last Test side, against India in Brisbane, who definitely won't be involved next month is Matthew Wade.
An additional group of players have also been selected to make up the Australia A side that will face England at the same time as the opening Test in Brisbane while they will also be involved in the intrasquad warm-up from December 1 to 3.
Mitchell Marsh, the star of the T20 World Cup final in Dubai, is among those players while the selectors will take the chance to look at some of the younger top-order batters in Henry Hunt, Bryce Street and the previously capped Matt Renshaw. Nic Maddinson has also been rewarded for his strong domestic form with Victoria alongside team-mate Scott Boland.
"This group is well balanced to ensure we are prepared for the many challenges of an Ashes Series. It has a mix of experienced, proven performers and emerging, developing talent," Bailey said. "We will take this 15-player squad into the opening Test in Brisbane and the pink-ball match in Adelaide, after which we can reassess for the remaining matches."
Australia Test squad Tim Paine (capt), Pat Cummins, Cameron Green, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Michael Neser, Jhye Richardson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson, David Warner
Australia A players Sean Abbott, Ashton Agar, Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Henry Hunt, Josh Inglis, Nic Maddinson, Mitchell Marsh, Matt Renshaw, Mark Steketee, Bryce Street

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo