George Bailey is almost certain to make his Test debut in the Ashes series opener at the Gabba starting on Thursday week.
Tasmania skipper Bailey, 31, was selected in a 12-man Australian squad named on Tuesday on the back of his remarkable one-day international form including the recent tour to India where he amassed 478 runs at 95.6 when also serving as captain.
Selectors will be hoping he can provide much-needed middle order stability, much as another late bloomer, Mike Hussey, used to do.
Bailey’s first-class record has been a little underwhelming, averaging just 18 last Sheffield Shield season.
But national selector John Inverarity said Bailey got the nod over another Tasmanian, Alex Doolan, because of his brilliant recent form.
“It was certainly discussed at great length last night. Of course the national selection panel have been in contact quite a bit over the last few weeks and that had a lot of discussion,” Inverarity said.
“Alex Doolan is a very highly regarded player in our eyes.
“George Bailey has been in fantastic form with the bat.
“His confidence is riding high, his performance in international one-day cricket has been quite extraordinary and he’s very deserving of this opportunity.”
David Warner retains his spot at the top of the order, partnering Chris Rogers, after thrashing four centuries in the past month, including 104 off just 88 balls for NSW against Victoria in last week’s Sheffield Shield clash at the MCG.
And Mitchell Johnson returns as Australia’s third paceman alongside Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle.
The 32-year-old left-armer last played Test cricket in Australia’s fourth Test loss to India in March and will be keen to further distance memories of his 2009 Ashes series struggles in England.
“He’s in good rhythm and bowling with good pace, so we’re confident he’ll acquit himself very well and be a bowler to the fore in our attack,” Inverarity said.
Nathan Lyon is the Test spinner after selectors overlooked Victorian leggie Fawad Ahmed.
Allrounder James Faulkner is included as the likely 12th man and cover for Shane Watson, who is carrying a hamstring injury.
Inverarity said Australia were confident of Watson being able to bowl in the first Test, but couldn’t be 100 per cent sure nine days out from the match.
Faulkner isn’t necessarily being seen as Watson’s shadow however, with the possibility he could be used as a fourth seamer if conditions were conducive to pace.
“I think on that squad of 12, we’ve got considerable facility there,” Inverarity said.
“You’ll be able to determine that we could play five batsmen and five bowlers, or we could play four quicks and no spinners, or three quicks and one spinner.
“Shane is progressing very well in regaining his fitness and we’re confident he’ll be fit to play.
“We’re not sure as yet, because it’s nine days to go, to which extent he’ll be able to bowl.”
England are vying for a record fourth straight Ashes series win, having won the last series 3-0 at home earlier this year.
Australian squad: Michael Clarke (capt), David Warner, Chris Rogers, Shane Watson, Steve Smith, George Bailey, Brad Haddin, Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle, Ryan Harris, Nathan Lyon, James Faulkner.