Tait the wild card in Ashes pack

On the day Australia's women cricketers shattered the dreams of one bright, confident England team, when they thrashed Clare Conner's side by five wickets in the semi-finals of the World Cup, Cricket Australia announced their 16-man squad for this summer's main sporting event - the Ashes. Ricky Ponting's side arrive in England on 7 June and Michael Vaughan will be hoping the women's defeat is not an omen of things to come.

On the day Australia's women cricketers shattered the dreams of one bright, confident England team, when they thrashed Clare Conner's side by five wickets in the semi-finals of the World Cup, Cricket Australia announced their 16-man squad for this summer's main sporting event - the Ashes. Ricky Ponting's side arrive in England on 7 June and Michael Vaughan will be hoping the women's defeat is not an omen of things to come.

England's women felt that this tournament offered them their best chance in years of beating the Aussies, and Vaughan's side, following a 14-month period in which they have won 12 and lost only one of 16 Tests, are in a similar position.

Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Adam Gilchrist and Ponting, four players who have played a huge role in ensuring that Australia have maintained a stranglehold on England since 1986-87, were always going to be selected. But the size of the task facing England, and the achievements of this great Australian side only really sink in when their names appear in front of you in black and white on an official piece of paper.

Twelve members of the squad picked themselves and, barring injury, it is from these players that Australia will select their side for the first Test at Lord's. The aggressive away swing of Michael Kasprowicz holds favour over Brett Lee's pace, but whoever lines up on 21 July will complete a formidable bowling outfit. Warne, McGrath and Jason Gillespie will be over 30 when the series starts - as are nine members of their strongest team - but their fitness and ability to change the course of a match show few signs of fading.

Australia's back-up players are a mixed bunch. Stuart MacGill has 39 wickets against England in six Test matches and Australia are fortunate to have such a bowler as cover for Warne. The temperamental leg-spinner played a significant role in helping New South Wales win the Pura Cup this year, taking 54 wickets in 11 matches, and both he and Warne could play in the fifth Test at The Oval.

"Stuart has done everything asked of him when he has been in the Test team," said Trevor Hohns, the selection panel chairman. "He is a quality spinning option for us who is accustomed to English conditions."

Brad Hodge has had two outstanding seasons playing for Leicestershire and this would have encouraged the Australian selectors to pick the 30-year-old ahead of Darren Lehmann. Brad Haddin, the New South Wales wicketkeeper, has been included to ease the load placed on Gilchrist's wobbly knees.

As usual Australia have placed a wild card in the pack, and on this occasion it is Shaun Tait. The South Australian speedster acted as Durham's overseas player in 2004 but was dropped after taking 0 for 176 in 18 overs. Yet this did not prevent him returning to Australia and becoming the top wicket-taker in last winter's Pura Cup.

The 22-year-old's slingy action, which evokes memories of Jeff Thompson, enabled him to claim 65 wickets in the tournament, and the Australians are hoping he will develop further through working with the likes of McGrath and Gillespie.

* Brian Lara's second stint as West Indies captain came to an ignominious end on Monday. Although he was chosen in the team for the second Test against South Africa, starting in his home town, Port of Spain, Trinidad, on Friday, Shivnarine Chanderpaul remains captain for the remainder of the series and the subsequent two Tests and three one-day internationals against Pakistan.

DOWN UNDER'S FINEST AUSSIES DUST OFF ASHES PARTY

Test Squad

Ricky Ponting (captain), Adam Gilchrist (vice-captain), Michael Clarke, Jason Gillespie, Brad Haddin, Matthew Hayden, Brad Hodge, Michael Kasprowicz, Simon Katich, Justin Langer, Brett Lee, Stuart MacGill, Damien Martyn, Glenn McGrath, Shaun Tait, Shane Warne.

One-day Squad

Ponting (captain), Gilchrist, Clarke, Gillespie, Haddin, Hayden, Brad Hogg, Michael Hussey, Kasprowicz, Simon Katich, Lee, Martyn, McGrath, Andrew Symonds, Shane Watson.

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