Australia look set to go in against India with a revamped top order for the Boxing Day Test, with opener Ed Cowan on Saturday named to the team alongside big-hitter David Warner and Shaun Marsh.
In-form newcomer Cowan was one of three additions to a 13-man Australian squad named last week for the Melbourne Cricket Ground Test beginning today, after batsmen Phillip Hughes and Usman Khawaja were dumped.
The two other additions — Marsh and bowler Ben Hilfenhaus — also made the final eleven, but all-rounder Dan Christian failed to make the cut.
“I’m confident we’ve got the best eleven to win this Test match in these conditions,” skipper Michael Clarke said.
“I can use Michael Hussey, Ricky Ponting and myself to bowl a few overs. David Warner can bowl a few legspinners. I feel we’ve got the right eleven to give ourselves a chance of winning this Test match,” he said. “Dan Christian offers a lot with both bat and ball, but unfortunately for him right now we can’t fit him into the eleven.”
Clarke backed the selection of Hilfenhaus to spearhead Australia’s pace attack.
“His control, he’s a very good new ball bowler. He can bowl long spells. He’s had success against India as well. There’s a few reasons we decided to go with Hilfy,” he said.
Australia, fresh from a humiliating defeat to lowly New Zealand in Hobart this month, will be missing all-rounder Shane Watson who is injured (hamstring/calf), while fast bowler Ryan Harris was not named in the squad.
Coach Mickey Arthur said Harris and Christian would “stay around the group” until their Twenty20 Big Bash League commitments took them away later in the week.
“And Shane Watson will also be with the group in Melbourne in order to build workloads and hopefully be fit for consideration for selection for upcoming Test matches,” Arthur said.
India, ranked two places above Australia at second in Test cricket, are aiming to win their first series Down Under after failing in nine previous tours over 64 years.
Their batting line-up boasts two of Test cricket’s greatest run scorers — Sachin Tendulkar (15,183) and Rahul Dravid (13,094), with Tendulkar bidding for his 100th international century on the Australian tour.
The Australian team is in transition with several inexperienced players alongside Ricky Ponting, 37, and Mike Hussey, 36.
Warner has just two Tests under his belt, while Marsh, who has suffered back trouble, has three.
Clarke said he was confident Marsh was fit to play despite his back problems.
“His back is fine,” he said. “He’s taken it easy yesterday and today to make sure he’s fully recovered and ready to go come Boxing Day.”
“I’d imagine you’ll see Shaun out here tomorrow facing some bowlers or at least having some throwdowns. He’s 100 percent ready to go,” Clarke said.
It is hoped that right-handed Cowan will add some ballast to the top order.
The 29-year-old hit 109 for the Chairman’s XI against India, along with two centuries in this season’s domestic Sheffield Shield and one for Australia A against the touring New Zealanders.