Melbourne: Australia have decided against using the allrounder Daniel Christian in the Boxing Day Test, while the left-armer Mitchell Starc has also missed out from the 13-man squad. The captain Michael Clarke announced the starting line-up on Saturday, two days before the game, with Ben Hilfenhaus to play his first Test since the Ashes last summer.
Shaun Marsh was named at No.3 after making an impressive return from his back injury in Thursday night's Big Bash League match, while the opener Ed Cowan will make his debut. Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey, the two under-pressure senior members of the middle order, have retained their positions.
The decision to go in with only four frontline bowlers could be viewed as a gamble against a strong batting line-up including Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Virender Sehwag and VVS Laxman. However, Clarke said he would call on his batsmen to provide some overs if required.
"I'm confident we've got the best XI to win this Test match in these conditions," Clarke said. "I can use Michael Hussey, Ricky Ponting and myself to bowl a few overs. David Warner can bowl a few legspinners. I feel we've got the right XI to give ourselves a chance of winning this Test match.
"DC [Christian] offers a lot with both bat and ball but unfortunately for him right now we can't fit him into the XI."
Hilfenhaus won his recall in part due to his ability to bowl long spells, which without an allrounder will become more important.
"I think it plays a part," Clarke said. "His control, he's a very good new ball bowler. He can bowl long spells. He's had success against India as well. There's a few reasons we decided to go with Hilfy."
While the bowling gains experience with the return of Hilfenhaus, the batting line-up will also welcome back an important man with Marsh to play his first Test since the Cape Town debacle last month. Clarke said he was confident Marsh was fit to play despite his serious back problems over the past six weeks.
"His back is fine," he said. "He's taken it easy yesterday and today to make sure he's fully recovered and ready to go come Boxing Day. I'd imagine you'll see Shaun out here tomorrow facing some bowlers or at least having some throwdowns. He's 100% ready to go."
Australia 1 David Warner, 2 Ed Cowan, 3 Shaun Marsh, 4 Ricky Ponting, 5 Michael Clarke (capt), 6 Michael Hussey, 7 Brad Haddin (wk), 8 Peter Siddle, 9 James Pattinson, 10 Nathan Lyon, 11 Ben Hilfenhaus.