The Ashes: Australia announce squad for first two tests as Usman Khawaja earns recall after two years away

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 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Australia have recalled Usman Khawaja to their squad for the first two men’s Ashes Tests, with the veteran batter competing with Travis Head for the vacant No5 spot.

Australia have selected a familiar 15-man squad containing just two uncapped players, seamer Michael Neser and the reserve spinner, leggie Mitch Swepson.

Tim Paine has been selected to lead the side despite playing no cricket this season due to a neck injury. He hopes to play a Sheffield Shield match this weekend.

After James Pattinson retired, Neser and Jhye Richardson will provide pace competition for the usual suspects Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins.

When they lost to India at the Gabba in January – their last Test – Matthew Wade was at No5. Now Khawaja and Head, who are both in strong domestic form, will bat off for the position in a Shield match next week. Selector George Bailey said Australia’s thinktank knew which they were leaning but gave little more away.

Batting starlet Will Pucovski is still battling concussion, which means Marcus Harris keeps his place at the top of the order. Otherwise, the batting has a settled look, with David Warner, Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith in the top four, and all-rounder Cameron Green at No6.

Staggeringly, reluctant travellers Australia have played just four Tests – compared to England’s 18 – since the pandemic struck. This squad is for the First Test in Brisbane on December 8, and the pink-ball match that follows in Adelaide before Christmas.

In addition, Australia have selected an “A” squad that will help the main group prepare for the Ashes, then play against England Lions. Included is Mitch Marsh, the man of the match in their T20 World Cup triumph.

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