OLD timers Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey survived the cut, but Australia appear set to unveil another two debutants in the Boxing Day Test against India.
In the line-up for the first time is batsman Ed Cowan, whose recent glut of runs made it simply impossible for national selectors to ignore him any longer.
It will cap a remarkable rise from struggling first-class cricketer to Test debutant when he opens the batting with David Warner.
And Dan Christian could join Cowan in earning a baggy green cap, although selectors are still weighing up whether to go with the all-rounder or an underdone Shaun Marsh.
Marsh batted strongly at the boot camp in Melbourne but hasn’t played a competitive fixture since early November.
He’ll be given until Christmas Day to prove he has overcome the back injury that struck him down in South Africa.
But with coach Mickey Arthur and captain Michael Clarke keen to have a genuine fifth bowling option against India’s powerful batting line-up, Christian seems to have the slight edge over Marsh.
In another intriguing selection battle within the 13-man Test squad, left-arm paceman Mitchell Starc and in-form quick Ben Hilfenhaus will fight it out for the final bowler’s spot.
Starc claimed just four wickets in the recent Test series against New Zealand.
In contrast, Hilfenhaus has bounced back from his Test axing in January to snare 20 Sheffield Shield scalps at 28.6 this season.
Under-fire veterans Ponting and Hussey were spared the axe, but out-of-form opener Phil Hughes and Usman Khawaja weren’t as fortunate.
All-rounder Shane Watson (calf) ruled himself out of contention for Melbourne but hopes to be fit for the second Test at the SCG.
Paceman Ryan Harris will also be given more time to build up fitness following his recent injury lay-off.
Cowan’s career was at the crossroads at the end of the 2008-09 summer after struggling to cement his place in NSW’s powerful line-up.
But a move to Tasmania breathed new life in his career, with four centuries in his past four long-form matches culminating in a dream Test call-up.
“I think in the side we need a bit more steadiness and we’re looking to Ed to provide that,” Inverarity said of Cowan, who originally planned to attend the Boxing Day Test as a spectator for his best mate’s bucks party.
Ponting, who copped a minor hit to the finger while facing James Pattinson in the nets on Wednesday, is facing growing calls to retire.
But Inverarity said the former Test skipper and Hussey provided valuable experience to a fledgling Test outfit that has blooded seven new faces since August.
“In recent times Pat Cummins has come into the side, Nathan Lyon has come into the side, David Warner, James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc and now Ed Cowan,” Inverarity said.
“There are a lot of new names there, a lot of refreshment there. I think that needs to be blended with some of the experienced players and I’m very pleased with the way it’s developing.” – AAP
Australia: Michael Clarke (capt), Brad Haddin (vice-capt), Dan Christian, Ed Cowan, Ben Hilfenhaus, Michael Hussey, Nathan Lyon, Shaun Marsh, James Pattinson, Ricky Ponting, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc, David Warner.