Out-of-form David Warner has been included in Australia’s squad for the World Test Championship final and the first two Ashes Tests, while all-rounder Mitchell Marsh earns a recall.
Veteran opener Warner is fighting to save his career after a lean run with the bat that had some questioning whether his time was up.
But the 36-year-old will head to England as part of a 17-man squad that also includes Josh Inglis as cover for wicketkeeper Alex Carey, and Marcus Harris and Matthew Renshaw as back-up batsmen.
There was no room for batsman Peter Handscomb, who featured on the recent Test tour of India and is currently playing county cricket in England.
Chairman of selectors George Bailey all but confirmed Warner – on his fourth Ashes tour – would play the World Test Championship final against India at The Oval from 7 June.
But he would not guarantee Warner’s place for the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston in mid-June.
“Not specifically to Dave, but I think we’ll get through that Test Championship and then start to have a look at what it looks like,” he said when pressed on Warner’s longer-term place in the team.
“Different opposition, different surface. We’ll work through that.”
Should Warner be overlooked, Harris or Renshaw would step in to partner Usman Khawaja at the top of the order.
In the bowling department, spinners Ashton Agar, Mitchell Swepson and Matt Kuhnemann, who went to India, were overlooked with Todd Murphy getting the nod as second spinner to Nathan Lyon.
“The UK is a very different assignment from our most recent tour of India and some of the changes are based upon the conditions we are anticipating,” said Bailey.
Big-hitting Marsh, who has long battled injuries, returns as a backup for first-choice all-rounder Cameron Green.
Marsh has not played a Test since the 2019 Ashes tour but is a mainstay of Australia’s white-ball teams and Bailey said he deserved another chance in the red-ball format.
“It’s great to have Mitch back, he hasn’t really had the opportunity to be bowling in longer-format cricket for some time and the [ankle] operation he had just prior to Christmas has worked really well,” he said.
“Mitch has performed well in the UK in the past and we think he can add some real value,” Bailey added.
After the World Test Championship final, Australia play five Ashes Tests at Edgbaston, Lord’s, Headingley, Old Trafford and The Oval.
Bailey said selectors would evaluate the make-up of the squad following the first three matches, noting that Sean Abbott and Michael Neser were playing county cricket should extra fast-bowling firepower be needed on what are expected to be flat decks.
The squad currently has just four frontline seamers – captain Pat Cummins, Marsh, Josh Hazlewood and Scott Boland.
“We see value in revisiting the squad following the second Ashes Test given the short turnaround between the World Test Championship final and the first Ashes Test, along with the length of the tour,” Bailey said.
Australia squad: Pat Cummins (c), Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Todd Murphy, Matthew Renshaw, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, David Warner.
© Agence France-Presse