Cowan to make Australia debut
In-form Tasmania opener gets call-up
Last Updated: 24/12/11 5:10pm
Ed Cowan: Will make his Australia debut in the Boxing Day Test
Ed Cowan will make his debut for Australia on Boxing Day after being named in the XI for the first Test against India in Melbourne.
The opening batsman has scored centuries in each of his past four innings for Tasmania and also in the Chairman's XI against India in a warm-up match.
Ben Hilfenhaus and Shaun Marsh were also named in the team, with the latter returning from a back injury.
Cowan and Marsh replaced out-of-from pair Phillip Hughes and Usman Khawaja, while swing bowler Hilfenhaus has come in for Mitch Starc, who has been named as 12th man.
Ryan Harris and Dan Christian will remain with the group until their Big Bash League commitments later in the week, and all-rounder Shane Watson will also continue his recovery in a bid to be fit for upcoming Test matches.
With Australia missing Watson's contribution with the ball, captain Michael Clarke said that Hilfenhaus' endurance helped him win the final bowling spot over youngster Starc.
Clarke said: "He is a very good new ball bowler and he can bowl long spells and he has had success against India as well so there's probably a few reasons why we decided to go with Hilfy.
"We feel we have got the right XI to give ourselves a chance to win the Test match."
Clarke said 21-year-old Starc was disappointed when told he was dropped.
"Mitch is obviously disappointed. He would have loved a chance but he understands the reasons," he said.
"He has to keep working hard at his game now to continue to improve. (He needs) to go back to his Big Bash team and New South Wales and continue to take wickets."
Clarke also insisted his side have overcome their wobbles against swing bowling - something they would likely have to prove if called to bat on the first morning.
The Melbourne Cricket Ground's drop-in pitch has traditionally been batsman-friendly but groundsman Cameron Hodgkins has predicted a hairy morning session for the team batting first.
Australia's skipper would be mindful of last year's horror Boxing Day when former captain Ricky Ponting lost the toss to England counterpart Andrew Strauss.
His team were subsequently out for 98 when sent into bat on an overcast morning. As the pitch flattened in the afternoon sun, England's openers reached 157 without loss.
The tourists therefore set up victory within four days to retain the Ashes on Australian soil for the first time in a quarter of a century.
Clarke said he would ponder the conditions if they won the toss on Monday, when sporadic showers are forecast.
"I think it's important that if we play first, we play our natural game," he said.
"I think you have the confidence to back your own ability. We've done plenty of work, it's not for lack of training, it's not for looking at the opposition, our preparation has been spot on.
"Now it's about getting out there and enjoying every minute of it.
"I've no concerns if we bat first on that wicket and there's a bit of movement, I'm confident we're ready for it."
Australia's batsmen have been under fire ever since they were all out for 47 against South Africa in Cape Town last month.
They also collapsed spectacularly when coasting to victory against New Zealand in Hobart. The second Test defeat to the Black Caps led to a hastily convened batting boot camp held this week.