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Australian selectors fire warning shot

Xavier Doherty, Callum Ferguson and Usman Khawaja are the surprise names in the 17-man Australian squad for the opening Ashes Test in Brisbane on November 25.

The uncapped trio form part of an inflated squad which will be cut down after the upcoming round of Sheffield Shield fixtures.

Despite suggestions from the new-look selection panel that they would stick with their established line-up for the start of the series, the squad reads like a warning shot to certain players.

Doherty’s chance?

Doherty impressed on his One Day International debut against Sri Lanka earlier this month, taking 4-46 at the MCG in Melbourne.

The 27-year-old Tasmanian’s selection puts pressure on first-choice off-spinner Nathan Hauritz, who struggled for form on the recent tour of India.

Doherty is considered a one-day specialist and World Cup hopeful by many but his surprise selection illustrates his rapid rise in the pecking order.

Chairman of Selectors Andrew Hilditch admitted the panel have a tricky decision to make between their two spin options.

Options for Australia

He said: "Nathan Hauritz has performed exceptionally well over the past 12 months for Australia.

"One of the biggest decisions we will need to make is whether we go into the first Test in Brisbane with a right-arm offspinner or with the variation of a left-arm orthodox bowler.

"Xavier Doherty has been very impressive in both limited-overs and first-class cricket, in particular last season and the start of this season, and it will be a great opportunity for us to observe both of the spinning options in the Sheffield Shield clash between New South Wales and Tasmania at the SCG this week."

North and Hussey feel the heat

The struggling middle-order pair of Marcus North and Mike Hussey will be the most concerned with the elevation of Ferguson and Khawaja.

Ferguson, 25, has impressed in 26 ODI appearances, collecting five half-centuries at an impressive average of 46.07.

He missed out for his state South Australia in their draw with England last week however, falling to Steve Finn for just 35.

Khawaja was a part of the squad which toured England during 2010 but is yet to play for his country - despite an impeccable record in First Class cricket.

The Pakistani born New South Welshman would become the first Muslim to represent Australia should he be given his chance in Brisbane.

The selectors have also kept their options open in the fast-bowling department, with Peter Siddle and Ryan Harris returning to the squad after injuries.

Both will be keeping an eye on Doug Bollinger, whose last competitive game was the first Test defeat to India in Mohali early in October.

The non-selection of opener Phillip Hughes appears to indicate that Simon Katich will be fit for the game however, after recovering from a broken thumb.

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