Johnson, Tait figure in Aussie squad for Gabba

Published: Thursday, November 16, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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Sydney:Mitchell Johnson is all set to make his Test debut after Australia today named the left-arm pacer in their 13-member squad to take on England in the first Ashes match starting at Gabba in Brisbane on Nov 23.

Australia also have included fast bowlers Stuart Clark and Shaun Tait. The trio is contesting the third fast bowling spot behind established new-ball pair Glenn McGrath and Brett Lee for the Gabba Test.

The Australians also named all-rounder Shane Watson in the 13, opening the possibility that the home team may unleash four fast bowlers on the England batsmen in the first of five Tests on what is regarded as the quickest pitch in Australia.

Ricky Ponting will captain the team with wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist his vice-captain.

"The inclusion of extra pacemen in the squad reflects one of the strongest starts to the domestic season of young talent in recent memory," chairman of selectors Andrew Hilditch said in a Cricket Australia statement Thursday.

"It reflects the development of Mitchell Johnson in the past 12 months, some eye-catching fast bowling from Shaun Tait and the performance of Stuart Clark in South Africa and since his return from injury domestically."

Hilditch said the squad reflected the strength of Australian cricket.

"We've picked a very strong squad which reflects the fact that Australia has been successful at international level for some time," he said.

"We are showing faith in those players who have contributed to that success, while at the same time injecting some youth into the squad with the inclusions of Shane Watson, Mitchell Johnson and Shaun Tait.

"We believe this is a squad capable of winning back the Ashes."

Hilditch said the selection of Shane Watson gave the Australian team the option of playing a bowling all-rounder.

"We see his inclusion to the Test squad as an exciting development for Australian cricket," he said.

"Shane has an outstanding first-class record with the bat, averaging over 45 and his bowling ability gives us the flexibility in our attack that we have been looking for.

"It will be interesting to see how he develops as a Test cricketer in this series."

Hilditch said the selection of the final 11 players will a tough decision and dependent on assessing the weather and pitch conditions closer to the Test.

Ponting, who holds the unwanted distinction of being the Australian skipper who lost the Ashes to England in last year's series in England, is excited by the bowling talent he will have at his disposal.

"We have got a well-documented experienced team going into this series but I think historically what you want in any team is a good mix of youth and experience and I think we've certainly got that," Ponting said in the statement.

"Shane Watson's cricket over the last 12 months has come along in leaps and bounds, he's got a terrific record at first-class level with the bat and his bowling has really taken off, probably since (fast bowling coach) Troy Cooley has been around the group.

"It's really exciting as far as I'm concerned to have that depth of fast bowling talent around the country at the moment.

"You look at Tait, Johnson and Clark who have all started this season off extremely well and are all putting their hands up for selection."

The Squad:

Australia: Ricky Ponting (captain), Adam Gilchrist (wk, vice-captain), Stuart Clark, Matthew Hayden, Mike Hussey, Mitchell Johnson, Justin Langer, Brett Lee, Damien Martyn, Glenn McGrath, Shaun Tait, Shane Warne and Shane Watson. John Buchanan (coach).


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