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Australia Picks Cowan for first Test against India

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Melbourne: Tasmanian seamer Ben Hilfenhaus has been recalled and in-form New South Wales-born batsman Ed Cowan included in the 13-member Australia squad for the first Test against India starting at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) here on Boxing Day.

Also in the extended squad are Shaun Marsh and Dan Christian; out go injured all-rounder Shane Watson, fast bowler Ryan Harris and out-of-form batsmen Phillip Hughes and Usman Khawaja.

Veterans Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey were retained, although there was a scare for the 37-year-old former Test skipper in the nets Wednesday morning.

Facing fast bowler James Pattinson on the second day of coach Mickey Arthur’s batting camp, Ponting was struck on the right hand and walked out of the nets immediately, looking at the point of contact. Concerns about a possible injury were played down afterwards.

Chief selector John Inverarity said a 13-man squad had to be named instead of the normal 12 owing to the uncertainty over the fitness of Marsh, who has been battling a bad back.

Dumped after Australia’s disastrous Ashes campaign last summer, Ben Hilfenhaus, 28, is back with some consistent performance in domestic cricket.

Hilfenhaus could come in for left-armer Mitchell Starc in the eleven on the back of an impressive season in which he has gathered 22 first-class wickets at an average of 30. He was considered for the first Test against the Kiwis in Brisbane earlier this month after performing well for Australia A against New Zealand in the lead-up.

Marsh will have to prove his fitness in the Big Bash game for Perth Scorchers in the Twenty20 league Thursday night.

Tasmania’s Cowan, 29, has been rewarded for a superb run of four centuries in four matches, the latest effort being 109 for the Chairman’s XI against India in Canberra against the Indians, and he should make his Test debut at the MCG.

Khawaja finds himself out of Michael Clarke’s side for the second time in his young career to make way for others, while opener Hughes, as expected, has been dropped after a disappointing series against New Zealand.

“Ed Cowan has been in excellent form in recent weeks. His inclusion is in recognition of his consistently good performances and we anticipate that he can provide steadiness at the top of the order. Ben Hilfenhaus has regained form this season and he provides a strong and reliable bowling option,” Sydney Morning Herald quoted Inverarity as saying.

“We see both Phillip Hughes and Usman Khawaja as developing players with bright futures and remaining as players of significance. They are determined young men and I know that they will work hard to produce compelling performances and push strongly for further consideration,” the chief selector said.

South Australia all-rounder Christian, the 12th man in Hobart, is also close to collecting a baggy green cap after being included in the squad again.

Watson, who missed the New Zealand series with a hamstring strain, is now understood have inflamed an existing calf injury on the first day of the batting camp Tuesday and was missing from training Wednesday.

There is also no place yet for Harris, who returned from a hip injury to bowl in the Big Bash League for Brisbane Heat last night but was not considered.

The squad: Michael Clarke (captain), Brad Haddin (vice-captain), David Warner, Ed Cowan, Shaun Marsh, Ricky Ponting, Michael Hussey, Dan Christian, Peter Siddle, James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Ben Hilfenhaus.

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