MIDDLE-order batter Travis Head and left-arm paceman Mitchell Starc have been named in Australia’s team for the first Ashes Test against England in Brisbane, which starts on Wednesday.
Head averages 39.8 runs per innings in Tests and has seen off competition from Usman Khawaja to bat at five.
Starc, the 31-year-old fast bowler who has 255 Test wickets at an average of 27.6, is in ahead of Jhye Richardson.
As expected, Alex Carey will make his Test debut behind the stumps.
Australia team for first Test: David Warner, Marcus Harris, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Cameron Green, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood.
Coach Justin Langer had said Australia would not name their team before the first day of the match, but new captain Pat Cummins revealed the team at a pre-series media launch in the early hours of Sunday morning UK time.
Most of the line-up was as expected with Marcus Harris opening alongside David Warner after Will Pucovski failed to recover from concussion, while Carey replaces Tim Paine, who dropped out of the squad after resigning from the captaincy over a historical investigation into sexually explicit texts sent to a female colleague.
The two main calls were whether Head or Khawaja would bat at five and if Starc would keep his place, with Australia great Shane Warne among those calling for him to be dropped.
Head has scored 394 runs at 49.25 in the Sheffield Shield this season with two centuries, including one in his last match against Queensland, while Khawaja has scored 460 runs at 65.71 with two hundreds.
Left-hander Khawaja only averages 29 in 12 Tests against England, leaving the selectors to opt for Head, who was dropped in Australia’s series defeat by India last winter.
Cummins, who takes over the captaincy from Paine, said: “It was a tight one. They are both really good options. Experience is great from Ussie and we feel really lucky to have that in the squad, but Trav’s been playing a lot for us the last couple of years.
“He’s gone away and he’s churned out runs in England, here in Australia, and we feel like he’s really ready to go.”
Starc, who has only taken three wickets at an average of 96.66 in two Tests in 2021 so far, saw off competition from Richardson, who took 15 wickets in his past two Sheffield Shield matches – including eight at the Gabba last month.
Cummins, who will become the first fast bowler to lead Australia since the 1950s, added that he probably will not take the new ball in this series. (BBC Sport)