Australia keep options open in Ashes squad

Monday, 15 November 2010 23:13 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

* Doherty, Khawaja, Ferguson surprise picks

* Clarke, Katich, Harris named despite injuries

* Squad to be cut just before test

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia kept their options open by naming a 17-man squad for the first Ashes test on Monday, allowing key players time to prove their fitness and form over the next 10 days.

Left-armed spinner Xavier Doherty was the biggest surprise in the party for the Brisbane test having made his one-day international debut against Sri Lanka just 12 days ago at the age of 29.

Doherty is one of three spinners in the squad, alongside offspinner Nathan Hauritz and young leg-spinner Steve Smith as the selectors continue wrestling with who should support their likely three-pronged pace attack at the Gabba from Nov. 25.

Uncapped batsmen Usman Khawaja and Callum Ferguson, who with Smith will face England for Australia A this week, were other inclusions who should keep the more experienced players focused.

"It's a longer squad than normal primarily because we want to take a look at the next round of Sheffield Shield games and the very important Australia A series," chief selector Andrew Hilditch said.

"The squad will be reduced to 12 or 13 immediately before the players arrive in Brisbane. It will be a lot of pressure on the players with such a big squad," he told a handful of fans at a rain-soaked announcement at Sydney's Circular Quay.

Vice-captain Michael Clarke (back), opener Simon Katich (thumb) and Doug Bollinger (side) were named despite injury concerns, as was fast bowler Ryan Harris, who suffered swelling to his injured knee up after his return to action last week.

Hauritz has been given a chance to prove his critics wrong after a poor tour of India but the inclusion of Doherty, who took four wickets on his debut, as well as Smith will keep the pressure on him.

"We've just got to decide who is bowling the best spin bowling at that particular moment," Hilditch said.

"We've introduced a lot of new faces in all forms of the game and most of those guys have stood up and played well." Squad - Ricky Ponting (captain), Michael Clarke (vice-captain), Doug Bollinger, Xavier Doherty, Callum Ferguson, Ryan Harris, Nathan Hauritz, Mike Hussey, Ben Hilfenhaus, Mitchell Johnson, Simon Katich, Usman Khawaja, Marcus North, Peter Siddle, Steven Smith, Shane Watson, Brad Haddin (wicketkeeper)