Just as expected, the Australian selectors have done some major axing. They have dropped middle-order batsman and part-time spinner Marcus North, as well as pace bowler Doug Bollinger and left arm orthodox Xavier Doherty.
But raising eyebrows is the inclusion of small-time spinner Michael Beer in the side for the next Ashes Test at Perth beginning on Dec 16. Beer who is being looked at for filling the spinner's slot has been considered over Nathan Hauritz who had just achieved a first class century and a five-wicket haul for New South Whales.
"Michael Beer replaces Xavier Doherty in the squad," Australia's chairman of selectors, Andrew Hilditch, said. "Michael is a left-arm orthodox spinner who has been very impressive at domestic level this year. He took wickets against England in the tour match earlier this summer and we expect he will bowl very well against the English on his home ground."
The 26-year-old beer like Doherty, is a left-arm orthodox. He began his cricketing carer with the Mebourne Cricket Club before moving in with Western Australia for first class cricket. Against the touring English side in November, he took 3 for 108 and 2 for 99. In first-class appearances, he has taken 16 wickets with a best of 3/39 and an average of 39.93.
Pace bowlers Ben Hilfenhaus and Mitchell Johnson who were dropped for the second Test at Adelaide, are also strongly being considered to join Peter Siddle and Ryan Harris in a four-part pace attack for Perth. The experience of the duo will serve them in good stead on the bouncy pitch.
Left-handed New South Whales batsman Philip Hughes, has been chosen to replace Simon Katich in the opener's position after the latter sustained an achilles tendon injury and was consequently ruled out of the rest of the series. Hughes has played 7 Test thus far, accumulating 615 runs at an impressive average of 51.25. In his last first-class match against Western Australia, he scored 48 and 10 in a match which his side won by 199 runs.
Another strong contender for the Perth Test is the leg-spinning allrounder Steven Smith. Smith has played two Tests, against Pakistan in England in July, when he was chosen in the absence of the injured Hauritz. If Beer isn't included in the final XI for Perth, he will take up a frontline bowler's spot.
"Steve Smith replaces Marcus North in the 12-man squad," Hilditch said. "This is obviously disappointing for Marcus who has played some outstanding Test innings for Australia but it was felt to be the right time to bring the exciting prospect Steve Smith into the Test team. Steve has already had success at international level and will also add to the bowling depth with his leg-spin bowling and dynamic fielding.
Squad: Shane Watson, Phillip Hughes, Ricky Ponting (capt), Michael Clarke, Michael Hussey, Brad Haddin (wk), Steven Smith, Mitchell Johnson, Ryan Harris, Peter Siddle, Michael Beer, Ben Hilfenhaus.