Symonds misses Ashes selection

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Allrounder Andrew Symonds has been omitted from Australia's 16-man squad to defend the Ashes cricket series in England.

Updated: May 21, 2009 18:00 IST
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Allrounder Andrew Symonds has been omitted from Australia's 16-man squad to defend the Ashes cricket series in England.

Selectors announced the squad Wednesday, 50 days ahead of the series-opening match at Cardiff on July 8.

Andrew McDonald was preferred to Symonds as an allrounder based on his performances in Australia's series win in South Africa in March. Other allrounders in the squad are Marcus North and Shane Watson, who was picked subject to fitness.

"Andrew McDonald played a very important role in both Australia's victory in the last Test match in Australia and on the recent series in South Africa, and has been rewarded with his first Ashes squad selection," chief selector Andrew Hilditch said.

Until the recent limited-overs series against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates, Symonds had not played for Australia since the end of 2008 due to a combination of injuries and off-field issues.

He had been hoping to force his way back into the Test lineup based on his recent good batting form in the Indian Premier League Twenty20 competition being played in South Africa, but in recent weeks was increasingly being considered a longshot to make the squad.

"The selectors have a tough job picking any team and it's obviously hard picking an Ashes squad, and unfortunately for Andrew this time there hasn't been room in the 16-man squad for him," skipper Ricky Ponting said.

"He made a reasonable comeback in the one-day team in Abu Dhabi and Dubai (against Pakistan) in the last few weeks and unfortunately he missed out on this selection," Ponting added. "But I know he'll keep working hard and he'll give himself every opportunity to make his way back into the team in the future."

Pacemen Brett Lee and Stuart Clark, who are both just returning from extended injury layoffs, were selected in a powerful fast bowling battery along with Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus.

Nathan Hauritz was selected as the specialist spinner, although Australia could depend on the part-time spin of North or vice-captain Michael Clarke during the five-Test series.

Australia had an upset 2-1 loss in 2005, the last time the Ashes series was held in England, but reclaimed the urn with a 5-0 series drubbing of the English tourists in 2006-07.

Hilditch said Watson's injury wasn't serious and he expected the Queensland allrounder to be fit for both the Twenty20 World Cup next month and the subsequent Ashes series.

He said the squad was a good blend of form and experience.

"We don't underestimate the task of beating England on home soil," Hilditch said as the squad was unveiled in Sydney.

Ponting said players such as McDonald and North had been rewarded for their efforts in South Africa, where Australia rebounded from a home series loss to the Proteas to hang onto the No. 1 Test ranking.

"It was a great triumph over there," said Ponting, who has played 26 Ashes Tests and was captain when Australia lost the series in '05. "I'm very excited about the upcoming Ashes series, particularly after that the last series in South Africa."

As expected, 20-year-old left-hander Phillip Hughes won a slot as an opener with Simon Katich. Hughes, who scored back-to-back hundreds in his second Test match in South Africa in March, has scored four centuries for English county Middlesex in the last five weeks.

Squad: Ricky Ponting (captain), Michael Clarke (vice-captain), Simon Katich, Phillip Hughes, Michael Hussey, Brad Haddin, Marcus North, Shane Watson, Andrew McDonald Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle, Brett Lee, Stuart Clark, Ben Hilfenhaus, Nathan Hauritz, Graham Manou.

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