Head gets nod over Khawaja and Starc avoids Australia axe for Ashes opener

By Sports Desk December 05, 2021

Australia have opted for Travis Head over Usman Khawaja as captain Pat Cummins confirmed the starting XI to face England in the opening Ashes Test at the Gabba.

It was between Head and Khawaja in the race to bat at number five in Wednesday's opener in Brisbane and Australia stuck with the former.

Head, who played in four of the 2019 Ashes Tests and top-scored with 51 at an average of 27.28 before sitting out the final match, has made 394 runs – including two centuries – at 49.25 this Sheffield Shield season.

His overall Test record also stands at an average of 39.75 from 19 matches, including two tons.

Khawaja – without an international appearance in the longest format of cricket since the third Ashes Test in 2019 – also had a pair of hundreds as part of a 460-run haul at 65.71 in the Sheffield Shield.

But new Australia skipper Cummins and selectors preferred Head as they bid to retain the urn, though England are yet to confirm their XI.

"It was a tight one. Both really good options, really strong form," said Cummins on Sunday.

"Experience is great from Uzzie and we feel really lucky to have that in the squad, but Trav's been playing a lot for us the last couple of years.

"He's gone away and he's churned out runs in England, here in Australia, and we feel like he's really ready to go."

Australia quick Mitchell Starc avoided the axe, selectors keeping faith with the paceman alongside fellow pace bowlers Cummins and Josh Hazlewood.

Starc's position was under threat due to his form and the rise of Jhye Richardson, who had taken 15 wickets in his past two Sheffield Shield matches.

England captain Joe Root declined to announce his team during Sunday's series launch, telling reporters: "We've got all the options on the table [but] we're not going to name a team just yet.

"We'll have to see the closer forecase and how that pitch changes over the next couple of days.

"But it's a great place to play spin. It's something we'll weigh up and consider, but we're not in a position to make that call right now."

 

Australian XI: David Warner, Marcus Harris, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Cameron Green, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins (c), Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc.

England: Joe Root (c), James Anderson, Jonathan Bairstow, Dom Bess, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Haseeb Hameed, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Ollie Pope, Ollie Robinson, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.

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