Symonds overlooked for Australia's Ashes squad

The troubled all-rounder Andrew Symonds was overlooked for Australia's squad for this year's Ashes series in England after the national selectors opted for youth over experience.

Symonds, who turns 34 next month, was ditched in favour of the younger Shane Watson and Andrew McDonald in a predictable 16-man squad for the five-test series starting in July.

"I think the selectors have definitely got it right," Australia captain Ricky Ponting said. "I think we've got a great balance of youth and experience...and I'm really excited about the prospects of a great series."

Australia have been steadily rebuilding their squad in preparation for the Ashes after a spate of high-profile retirements since their 5-0 thrashing of England in 2006-07.

The selectors experimented with a range of new players before seemingly to have settled on the right combination during their recent tour of South Africa.

"The core of the squad is made up of the side which successfully won the test series in South Africa and includes Phillip Hughes and Marcus North who both scored hundreds on debut," chairman of selectors Andrew Hilditch said.

"The young fast bowling group which performed so well in South Africa of Peter Siddle, Mitchell Johnson and Ben Hilfenhaus will all be taking part in their first Ashes tour to England.

"As shown in South Africa, they have the skills to perform at the international level and will be well suited to English conditions."

Hughes, an exciting lefthander who has taken the cricket world by storm in the past few months, will open the batting alongside Simon Katich with Ponting, Michael Clarke and Mike Hussey the other specialist batsmen.

Experienced fast bowlers Brett Lee and Stuart Clark were also both included despite only recently returning from injury while Graham Manou was added as a backup wicketkeeper to Brad Haddin.

Nathan Hauritz was selected as the sole specialist spinner although there were several capable part-timers in the squad, including North and vice-captain Clarke.

The only contentious decision was the omission of Symonds, whose test career appears finished, following a series of alcohol and disciplinary issues over the past few seasons.

"We all know how good a player Andrew can be but the facts are he went out of the side...last year," Ponting said.

"Opportunities were given to others and the others that have come into those positions have played exceptionally well and played well enough to keep Andrew out of the squad.

"He'll be disappointed but I've got a squad of 16 players now to take to England that I'm very confident that we can play a level of cricket that's going to be good enough to win the series."

Hilditch said Watson, whose selection was dependent upon passing a fitness test, had been given the nod ahead of Symonds because he was a more versatile batsman and handy medium pacer.



"Shane Watson has been named in the squad subject to fitness, but that is not expected to be a serious issue," Hilditch said.

"Shane in our view has the ability to bat anywhere in the order and enables us to have a batsman in the top six who can provide quality pace support for the fast bowling group."

Australia's Twenty20 squad, which includes Symonds and the bulk of the test players, will depart for Britain next week.

Australia's opening first-class match will be against Sussex, starting on 24 June, with the first of the five tests against England beginning at Cardiff on 8 July.

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