Khawaja dropped as Smith returns
Starc has yet to feature in this Ashes but the Old Trafford pitch is likely to be the quickest of the series and should suit the express left-armer
Australia dropped Usman Khawaja on Tuesday for the fourth Ashes Test against England at Old Trafford, with the struggling batsman making way for Steve Smith's return. Selectors named a 12-man squad for the Test beginning Wednesday, with David Warner and Marcus Harris as openers but leaving out Khawaja, who has averaged just 20.33 in six innings in the series batting at number three.
Leading batsman Smith, who suffered concussion after being hit on the head by Jofra Archer in the drawn second Test at Lord's, returns after sitting out Australia's agonising one-wicket loss at Headingley, which levelled the five-match series 1-1 with two Tests to play. Smith, on top of the latest ICC Test batting rankings published Tuesday, has scored 378 runs at an average of 126 in three innings in the series and was back on the field in last week's tour match against Derbyshire. The 32-year-old Khawaja scored 72 opening the batting against Derbyshire, but it was not enough to convince selectors to keep him in the side. Meanwhile Marnus Labuschagne, who became Test cricket's first concussion substitute when replacing Smith at Lord's, has seized on his unexpected chance to make three successive Ashes fifties.
'Hasn't scored the runs'
"Usman is obviously a key player in the side batting at number three and he hasn't scored the runs that he or we would like," Australia captain Tim Paine told reporters at Old Trafford on Tuesday. "With Steve Smith coming back it was a tough decision to make on Usman. "He has still got a lot of cricket left in him and has a very good Test record over his career. We expect him to bounce back pretty strongly." Harris has been retained after making eight and 19 at Headingley in his first Ashes Test then scoring 64 against Derbyshire before he was run out in a mix-up with Khawaja. Coach Justin Langer told reporters in Manchester that he was "very clear on the 12, not so sure on the 11", with the decision coming down to the bowling line-up. Pace bowler James Pattinson has also been left out, leaving fast bowlers Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and Peter Siddle to compete for three places.
Mitchell 'the mop'
Starc has yet to feature in this Ashes but the Old Trafford pitch is likely to be the quickest of the series and should suit the express left-armer. "Starcy bowled superbly last week at Derby," wicketkeeper Paine added. "He has been working really hard on getting his length right and we were really impressed. "We know what he can do to tail-end batters when he cranks it up. The boys have been calling him 'the mop' for a few years now. "He is a great option for us. We think this wicket might suit him and -- if we make that call -- we are sure he will do a great job." Langer said losing at Headingley by one wicket after bowling out England for 67 in the first innings was a "really tough loss" for the team, but their preparations for the upcoming game had been solid. "We felt like we got the Ashes stolen the other day," he said of England's successful chase of their record 359 target. "To England's great credit, that's what they did -- they won that Test match. "Now we've got to work out what we're going to do -- we're going to use that as fire, we're not going to feel sorry for ourselves."
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