Usman Khawaja and Travis Head in battle as Ashes squad named

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·Sports Reporter
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Usman Khawaja (pictured right) and Travis Head (pictured left) walk on to the field.
Usman Khawaja (pictured right) and Travis Head (pictured left) have been included in Australia's 15-man Ashes squad. (Getty Images)

Usman Khawaja's hopes of an Ashes recall has been given a boost after he was included in Australia's 15-man Ashes squad alongside Travis Head.

With only one batting spot believed to be up for grabs, the Australia and Australia A match in Brisbane on December 1-3 will likely resolve whether Khawaja or Head get the nod to bat at No.5 for the first Test against England.

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The only possible changes to Australia's XI for the series opener at the Gabba, which begins on December 8, would most likely be due to injury

Announced last week, it is likely incumbent Test opener Marcus Harris will partner David Warner at the top of the order for the Gabba and the following pink-ball match at Adelaide Oval.

Jhye Richardson looms as the most likely paceman to step up should selectors decide that one of Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood or Mitchell Starc isn't physically ready for the first Test.

Richardson, uncapped fast bowler Michael Neser and leg-spinner Mitchell Swepson were all named in the 15-man Test squad.

Khawaja hasn't played for Australia since being dropped during the 2019 Ashes.

Usman Khawaja form in Sheffield Shield

But the 34-year-old has exhibited impressive form at the start of this Sheffield Shield season.

His form has included a knock of 174 at Adelaide Oval and a stoic 70 when his Queensland outfit were bowled out for 129.

Calls for Khawaja's return has received some backlash after Ian Chappell offered a counter-argument and claimed the left-hander was a "good player against mediocre bowling", but England's experienced attack would overwhelm him.

Regardless, his good form caught the attention of chairman of selectors George Bailey.

"Usman Khawaja has been in great touch. He brings a calm, consistent and experienced component to the batting line-up and is a proven run-scorer at Test level," Bailey said.

"He also has the ability to bat across a range of positions in the batting order.

Travis Head (pictured) celebrates his fifty during day two of a Sheffield Shield match.
Travis Head (pictured) has been picked in the Australia squad ahead of the Ashes. (Photo by James Elsby/Getty Images)

"Travis finished last summer strongly, second only to Cameron Green for runs scored, and has again started the season well.

"He drives the game forward and can put the opposition under pressure with his ability to score quickly."

Bailey said the retention of Harris in the squad was a reward for being "a consistent run-scorer domestically" who "had a strong winter further developing his game with Leicestershire".

"He is a good player who will be looking to build a strong partnership with David Warner at the top of the order," Bailey said.

Neser has returned to training after a minor hamstring strain.

Twenty20 World Cup hero Mitch Marsh missed the cut, but was included alongside Ashton Agar and Josh Inglis on an extended list of Australia A players for the intra-squad game.

Australia's 15-man Test squad: David Warner, Marcus Harris, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Cameron Green, Tim Paine (capt), Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon, Jhye Richardson, Michael Neser, Mitchell Swepson.

Australia A top-up players for tour game: Sean Abbott, Ashton Agar, Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Henry Hunt, Josh Inglis, Nic Maddinson, Mitch Marsh, Matthew Renshaw, Mark Steketee, Bryce Street.

with AAP

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