Australia hand debut to opener Ed Cowan

 

Ed Cowan is set to make his debut for Australia in the first Test against India which gets under way at the MCG on Boxing Day.

The opener was included along with Shaun Marsh and Ben Hilfenhaus in a 13-man squad at the expense of New South Wales pair Phil Hughes and Usman Khawaja.

All-rounder Shane Watson is still not ready to return after he missed both recent Tests against New Zealand with a hamstring and then a calf injury, while fast bowler Ryan Harris was not considered after only returning to action in yesterday's Big Bash League game at the Gabba.

With Watson still sidelined selectors have retained Dan Christian in the squad after he was 12th man for the Hobart Test against New Zealand while Hilfenhaus is likely to replace Mitchell Starc.

Struggling batsmen Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey also retained their places, with Cowan set to take Hughes' place at the top of the order and Marsh in line to replace Khawaja.

Cricket Australia high performance manager Pat Howard said that Hilfenhaus was included as Australia needed a workhorse capable of bowling a lot of overs, but he also confirmed Marsh's inclusion was subject to him proving his fitness.

Marsh has not played since injuring his back in the first Test against South Africa last month in Cape Town, but provided he comes through training today in Melbourne he will then have to get through the Perth Scorchers' clash against the Melbourne Renegades tomorrow night.

Cowan has been rewarded for his strong recent form at first-class level, having scored centuries in each of his past three games and then added another in the three-day tour match against India at Canberra's Manuka Oval.

"Ed Cowan has been in excellent form in recent weeks. His inclusion is in recognition of his consistently good performances and we anticipate that he can provide steadiness at the top of the order," said CA chairman of selectors John Inverarity.

Inverarity has backed both Hughes and Khawaja to bounce back from their disappointments. The omission is the second major one of Hughes' career following his recent run of dismissals.

"We see both Phillip Hughes and Usman Khawaja as developing players with bright futures and remaining as players of significance," Inverarity added.

"They are determined young men and I know that they will work hard to produce compelling performances and push strongly for further consideration."

Australia squad for first Test against India:

Michael Clarke (c), Brad Haddin (vc), Dan Christian, Ed Cowan, Ben Hilfenhaus, Mike Hussey, Nathan Lyon, Shaun Marsh, James Pattinson, Ricky Ponting, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc, David Warner.

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