Australian selectors have gambled on two 30-something veterans to fill voids in the line-up for the first Ashes test against England, including batsman George Bailey in the 12-man squad for the first time and recalling Mitchell Johnson to join the pace attack.
Bailey, who led Australia in its recent limited-overs tour to India, is likely to bat at No. 6 in the series-opener at the Gabba next week. Johnson, a 51-test veteran, is expected to join Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle in a fast bowling trio after earning Test selection for the first time since March.
The 32-year-old Johnson has had both highs and lows in test cricket with his express pace often unnerving opposing batsman, but his lack of consistency sometimes makes him too expensive to keep in the attack.
Australia captain Michael Clarke was confident both Bailey and Johnson would do their jobs for Australia in the only changes to the squad from the fifth test of the last series, which England won 3-0. The English are in Australia trying to win a fourth consecutive Ashes series for the first time in more than a century, adding to the pressure on Clarke and Co.
Clarke said Johnson’s pace was an asset, and the left-arm quick had shown in India and in the ODI series in England that he’s improved his control.
Johnson says he was affected by taunts from English fans over two previous Ashes series and, more recently, on social media. “I know on Twitter they’ve asked if I’m ready for some new songs, so they’ve already started with the banter,” Johnson said.
David Warner’s weight of runs in domestic cricket with four centuries in the last month ensured his spot, despite being dropped from the ODI squad for the India series due to poor form and his tumultuous tour to England for the last Ashes series. He’ll likely partner Chris Rogers at the top of the order. Shane Watson was selected despite concern over his niggling hamstring injury, with chief selector John Inverarity saying the all-rounder was recovering well but it was too early to determine how much he could bowl if at all.
The 31-year-old Bailey scored 478 runs at an average of 95.6 while also serving as captain of the ODI team in India to cement his spot. Five different players started at No. 6 in the last Ashes series as selectors tried unsuccessfully to replace the retired middle-order stalwart Mike Hussey, but none able to cement the spot. Bailey has been the pick of the candidates since then.
Nathan Lyon was named as the only spin bowler after selectors overlooked Victorian leg-spinner and Pakistan refugee Fawad Ahmed. Allrounder James Faulkner is included as the likely 12th man as cover for Watson.
Australia squad: David Warner, Chris Rogers, Shane Watson, Steve Smith, Michael Clarke (captain), George Bailey, Brad Haddin, Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle, Ryan Harris, Nathan Lyon, James Faulkner.