BRISBANE: Australia confirmed their line-up for the first Ashes Test three days early on Sunday, recalling Travis Head for the hotly contested number five spot while retaining Mitchell Starc in the bowling attack.
Head was dropped after the Boxing Day Test against India last year, and new Australia captain Pat Cummins said the way he has responded gave him a narrow edge over the veteran Usman Khawaja.
“It’s a tight one. Selectors make the call but they’re just both really good options and have had really strong form,” Cummins said.
“I think the experience is great from Uzzie and we feel really lucky to have that in the squad but Trav has played a lot for us the last couple of years and he’s gone away and churned out runs over in England and here in Australia and we feel like he’s really ready to go.”
Starc faced a strong challenge from Jhye Richardson, who has been snaring wickets with his extreme pace in recent Sheffield Shield matches.
But the selectors opted to stay with the established troupe of quicks, with Starc and Josh Hazlewood taking the new ball, and Cummins said he will be the first change bowler.
Confirmation of the side days ahead of Wednesday’s toss at The Gabba in Brisbane has given the Australians time to focus solely on the Test and not be distracted by selection issues.
England, however, who last held the Ashes in 2015, were in no hurry to follow suit.
“We’ve got all the options on the table just now and we’re not going to name the team just yet,” captain Joe Root said.
“We can spend hours and hours talking about Australia but ultimately we have to prepare ourselves as best we can and look after our own thing and make sure with the preparation we’ve had we get the most out of the next few days.”
Australia: Marcus Harris, David Warner, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Cameron Green, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins (capt), Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood.
England: Joe Root (capt), James Anderson, Jonathan Bairstow, Dom Bess, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Haseeb Hameed, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Ollie Pope, Ollie Robinson, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.