FAWAD Ahmed has taken his first step towards a possible Test debut in the summer, earning selection in Australia’s limited overs squad which goes into action in England after the Ashes series.
Legspinner Ahmed replaces Xavier Doherty in the 18-man squad which will be trimmed to 15 after the two Twenty20 matches against England on August 30 and 31 ahead of an ODI against Scotland and five ODIs against England.
Alongside Doherty, allrounder Mitchell Marsh is the other notable omission, replaced by Steve Smith.
Mitchell Johnson has been recalled and fellow fast bowler Josh Hazlewood has overcome injury troubles to return to the international frame after a debut at 19 years of age in 2010.
Pakistan-born asylum seeker Ahmed became an Australian citizen in early July and has been in selectors’ sights for some time.
He’s played on the last two Australia A tours of the UK and Africa and is now set to make his international debut in the one-day side.
Nathan Lyon performed well in the recent fourth Test at Chester-le-Street and Ashton Agar made a remarkable debut earlier during the Ashes, but national selector John Inverarity said Ahmed was in contention for a call-up during the home summer against England starting in November.
“He would be in contention for that. We’ll see how he goes,” said Inverarity.
“He played in some (Sheffield) Shield matches at the end of the last Australian summer, bowled well and took wickets, so we’re just keen to see how he goes at international level.
“He and a number of other spinners will be contention as well.”
Ahmed struggled in difficult conditions in his matches in the UK and was patchy for Australia A in Africa.
However he’s shown potential, averaging 31.44 from 18 first-class matches and Australia are said to be keen on him for the home Ashes should he come up with a few performances that demand selection.
“I don’t know about it being a surprise because it’s been brewing for some time,” Inverarity said.
“But this is the time for his opportunity.”
The upcoming series represent a great opportunity for batsman Shaun Marsh who has scored 136 not out and 96 against South Africa A on the Australia A tour and is in great one-day form.
He is a prime candidate to return at No.3 for Australia during the home Test summer and will be looking to make his return to the international frame count.
Teenager Agar has been left out of the limited overs squad despite his shock Test debut during the Ashes.
It seems selectors are keen for him to hone his game further at Sheffield Shield level leading into the Ashes starting at the Gabba in November.
Captain Michael Clarke and allrounder Shane Watson have been included for the limited overs contests.
George Bailey captained the side for much of the Champions Trophy before the Ashes due to Clarke’s back injury and he’ll be vice-captain.
Aaron Finch has been called into the side after making a big hundred for Australia A, while unsettled Test players Phil Hughes and Usman Khawaja will have a chance to score runs and gain confidence in the shorter form.
Hazlewood is a great talent from NSW who played one ODI back in 2010 and played a T20I last summer.
Inverarity said he deserves another chance.
“He’s bowled with good pace and good accuracy (in Africa) and has been moving the ball,” he said.
“I think it’s the right time for him to come through and join the international squad.” – AAP
Australian squad: Michael Clarke (capt), George Bailey, Fawad Ahmed, Nathan Coulter-Nile, James Faulkner, Aaron Finch, Josh Hazlewood, Phil Hughes, Mitchell Johnson, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Clint McKay, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Adam Voges, Matthew Wade, David Warner, Shane Watson