Victorians Aaron Finch and Peter Siddle won recalls in Australia’s new-look Test squad that features five players yet to feature at cricket’s highest level.
Joining Finch in that group of five are Queensland pacemen Michael Neser and Brendan Doggett and batsman Marnus Labuschagne, and South Australian Travis Head.
The biggest surprise was the non-inclusion of Glenn Maxwell, who made more than 700 Sheffield Shield runs last season for Victoria at an average of 50.50.
Maxwell’s skill at playing spin – and his handy off-breaks – saw him considered by many as a walk-up selection in Australia’s absence-hit squad.
Peter Handscomb and Joe Burns missed out with the bat, too, while young quick Jhye Richardson also narrowly missed being selected.
Australia will play two Tests against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates in October and coach Justin Langer has opted for the fresh faces in a vastly different squad.
Many of the changes were forced, with Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft still serving suspensions for their roles in the ball-tampering saga.
Quicks Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood are also missing from the squad after suffering back injuries this year.
It means that Mitchell Starc will head up an inexperienced fast bowling group, but the spin-friendly conditions will ensure that the likes of Nathan Lyon, Jon Holland and Ashton Agar play a key role with the ball.
The inclusions of Finch and Siddle were the biggest news in Langer’s first Test squad, with the big-hitting Finch previously pigeonholed as a limited-overs player.
Finch has been a regular in short forms for Australia, making 93 one-day international appearances – including the 2015 World Cup final – and featuring in 42 Twenty20 international clashes.
A first-class batting average of just 36.15 has held Finch back in the longest form of the game but Ricky Ponting, Australia’s Twenty20 assistant coach, has shown faith in the batsman to thrive at the highest level.
“I’ve seen ‘Finchy’ up close and personal over the last seven or eight months during the T20 tri-series last summer and then the ODIs in England,” he told Cricket Australia’s official website.
“There’s no doubt he’s a different player than even he was 12 months ago. He understands his own game better than he ever has.”
Ponting also backed Siddle to thrive in the Middle East, adding that Siddle had “experience on his side” and is “good when the ball reverse swings”.
Siddle has played 62 Test matches for Australia, taking 211 wickets at an average of 29.92. He last played a Test for Australia in November 2016.
Tim Paine will continue as captain with a vice-captain yet to be named.
National selector Trevor Hohns acknowledged there was “significant change” to the squad that toured South Africa earlier this year, but backed Australia’s cricketers to perform.
“There has been significant change to our Test squad, due to the unavailability of a number of key players,” Hohns said.
“That said, we firmly believe the squad selected is up to the challenge ahead, and is capable of playing a brand of cricket that can perform well in this series against Pakistan.
“It’s a blend of experienced players who have a significant amount of either Test or first-class cricket, and a number of younger players who we are confident are ready for the Test arena.”
South African-born Labuschagne was the second highest run-scorer in last season’s Sheffield Shield and has impressed with the bat for Australia A on the current tour of India.
The 24-year-old who plays his state cricket for Queensland also bowls part-time spin, like another potential debutant in Head.
Head is well known to Australian cricket fans, given he has made 39 one-day international appearances and 16 Twenty20 international appearances for his country.
Doggett is a 24-year-old fast bowler while Neser is 28 and has proved a consistent swing bowler for South Australia and Queensland.
Australia’s Test squad: Tim Paine (c), Ashton Agar, Brendan Doggett, Aaron Finch, Travis Head, Jon Holland, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Michael Neser, Matthew Renshaw, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc