Paine named, Khawaja recalled as Australia confirm Ashes squad for opening Tests

Paine is yet to return to competitive cricket after neck surgery in September but leads an Australia team looking to win the Ashes after retaining the urn with a 2-2 series draw in England in 2019.

Khawaja, who turns 35 next month, earns a recall after strong Sheffield Shield form with two centuries in four matches, having not played the longest format of cricket since the third Ashes Test in 2019.

Victorian left-hander Marcus Harris appears set to open the batting alongside David Warner, with Will Pucovski absent due to another concussion, while Travis Head and Khawaja will battle to take the number five role.

Head was dropped in Australia’s last Test series against India in January.

The first Test takes place at the Gabba in Brisbane from December 8, followed by the day-night Test at Adelaide Oval from December 16.

National selection panel chair George Bailey said: “Marcus has been a consistent run scorer domestically and 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.

“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.

“Similarly, 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. He also has the ability to bat across a range of positions in the batting order.”

Jhye Richardson and Michael Neser are included as fast bowling depth, although the latter recently sustained a minor hamstring strain playing for Queensland in the Sheffield Shield.

“Jhye is seeing the rewards of concentrating on his red ball cricket in the build up to this series. We know he has an exceptional skill set and are excited about what he brings to the team now his body is back on track,” Bailey said.

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

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