By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Joe Burns and Usman Khawaja have been given the chance to cement their place in Australia’s revamped top order after being picked for the first two tests against New Zealand.
Two-test opener Burns and Queensland captain Khawaja were preferred to uncapped youngster Cameron Bancroft and the more experienced Shaun Marsh, who played a bit part in the Ashes defeat in England.
Burns is likely to slot into the retired Chris Rogers’ opening spot, with Khawaja to round out the top order with captain Steven Smith for the opening test in Brisbane starting Nov. 5 and the following match in Perth.
The 26-year-old Burns returns to the side after playing the final two tests against India during the last home summer, while left-hander Khawaja will play his first test since August 2013.
“Usman is a very good player of fast-bowling and is a fine technician; we feel he will make a really solid contribution towards our batting this series,” chief selector Rod Marsh said in a team statement on Friday.
“Joe thoroughly deserves his chance and was unlucky to miss out on the West Indies and Ashes tours off the back of two decent performances in his last test match for Australia in Sydney.
“He also put in terrific performances during the recent Australia A series in India.”
Following the retirements of Rogers, captain Michael Clarke and all-rounder Shane Watson, Smith will lead a team in transition into the three-match series which wraps up with cricket’s first day-night test at the Adelaide Oval.
Mitchell Marsh has taken the all-rounder baton from Watson, while middle order batsman Adam Voges has been retained despite a patchy Ashes series.
Opening batsman and vice captain David Warner has been named after recovering from a broken thumb.
The bowling lineup remains unchanged, with lone spinner Nathan Lyon supporting a pace attack led by left-armers Mitchell Starc and Mitchell Johnson.
Josh Hazlewood will vie for the third seamer’s spot with veteran workhorse Peter Siddle.
Steven Smith (capt), David Warner, Joe Burns, Josh Hazlewood, Usman Khawaja, Mitchell Johnson, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Peter Nevill, Mitchell Starc, Peter Siddle, Adam Voges
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)