Tassie spinner's shock Ashes selection

Tasmanian left-arm spinner Xavier Doherty is the shock pick in an expanded squad of 17 chosen by the Australian selectors for the opening Ashes Test in Brisbane, starting next Thursday.

Incumbent spinner Nathan Hauritz's spot is in doubt following a forgettable tour of India and an inconsistent display for NSW last week in the Sheffield Shield match against Victoria at the SCG. Fellow New South Welshman Steve Smith is the third spinner named in the squad.

Doherty, who took four wickets in his one-day international debut against Sri Lanka in Melbourne two weeks ago, could be thrust into the Ashes frontline for his Test debut in Brisbane.

Selectors have been forced to name an unusually expanded squad due to injury concerns to Michael Clarke (back), Doug Bollinger (stomach strain), Simon Katich (thumb) and Ryan Harris (knee). Young opening batsman Phillip Hughes was left out of the squad with middle-order candidates Usman Khawaja and Callum Ferguson called in as cover.

Khawaja and Ferguson have their chance to press their claims for a Test debut in this week's Australia A match against England in Hobart.

Clarke, Katich and Bollinger downplayed their injury concerns today stating they would be fully fit for the Ashes opener but Harris's chronic knee injury is more of a concern.

Clarke, who spent long periods of NSW's Shield match against Victoria off the field after aggravating his back while scoring a century, is supremely confident he will be fit.

"The back's OK," he said. "It's still a little bit stiff but I'm certain it will be fine for the first Test in Brisbane."

Selectors will trim the squad after the next round of Shield matches starting on Wednesday.

In all, five quicks were selected with Harris forcing his way in following a career-best Sheffield Shield return in Tasmania last week.

Harris claimed 9-140, but team physiotherapist Alex Kountouris said the joint required ongoing management.

"His [Harris's] availability for the first Ashes Test will be determined later this week," Kountouris said.

Chief selector Andrew Hilditch stressed the large number of players selected was a result of wanting to see players in more first-class action.

"It's a longer squad than normal primarily because we want to look at the next round of Shield games and the Australia A clash [against England]," Hilditch said.

"The [selection panel] has been pleased with the performance of the Test side in India. However, we were obviously disappointed in the result with two losses in games where we felt the result could easily have been different, and we realise there are some important areas we need to improve on before this summer's matches.

"Nathan Hauritz has performed exceptionally well over the past 12 months for Australia and one of the biggest decisions we will need to make is whether we go into the first Test in Brisbane with a right-arm off-spinner or with the variation of a left-arm orthodox bowler," Hilditch said.

Australian squad: Ricky Ponting (captain), Michael Clarke (vice-captain), Shane Watson, Simon Katich, Callum Ferguson, Mike Hussey, Marcus North, Usman Khawaja, Brad Haddin, Nathan Hauritz, Steve Smith, Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle, Ben Hilfenhaus, Doug Bollinger, Ryan Harris, Xavier Doherty.

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