Cowan, 29, was chosen for the first time and will open the batting after scoring centuries in his past four first-class games, including 109 yesterday for the Chairman’s XI against India in Canberra. He’ll be joined in the top three by Marsh if his fellow left-hander can prove his fitness.
“Ed is in a rich vein of form at the moment,” national selector John Inverarity said in a news conference. “He knows his game well. In the side we need a bit more steadiness and we’re looking to Ed to provide that.”
Cowan and Marsh replaced batsmen Phillip Hughes and Usman Khawaja in the team that lost to New Zealand in Hobart last week, a defeat which left the two-match contest tied at 1-1. Australia’s only Test series victory this year came in Sri Lanka, while India has been overtaken by England at the top of the International Cricket Council’s Test rankings.
Allrounder Shane Watson and fast bowler Ryan Harris weren’t considered because of fitness concerns, Cricket Australia said.
Watson missed both Tests against New Zealand because of a hamstring and then a calf injury, while Harris only returned to action yesterday in a Big Bash League Twenty20 game. Selectors retained allrounder Dan Christian in Watson’s absence and he’ll probably bat at No. 6 if Marsh is ruled out because of a back injury, Inverarity said.
“He’s got to prove himself in running, fielding and diving and seeing how he pulls up,” Inverarity said of Marsh.
Hilfenhaus, who played his most-recent Test in January against England, will vie for the final bowling spot with Mitchell Starc. Inverarity said Hilfenhaus provides an option as a “strong, durable, experienced bowler.”
The selection chief said Hughes and Khawaja need to work hard to produce “compelling performances” to push their case for future selection in the Test team. Hughes averaged 19 in his past eight Test innings, while Khawaja’s top score in 11 innings since making his elite debut in January is 65.
“We see both Phillip Hughes and Usman Khawaja as developing players with bright futures and remaining as players of significance,” Inverarity said.
The first Test against India starts Dec. 26 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground with matches in Sydney, Perth and Adelaide to follow.
Cowan said he was always going to be at the MCG next week regardless of being picked in the team because his best friend is starting his bachelor party at the match.
“I was scheduled to fly out on the morning of Boxing Day and sink a few tinnies watching the Test,” Cowan told reporters. “Unfortunately, I’ve had to put the bucks day on hold.”
AUSTRALIA SQUAD: Michael Clarke (captain), Brad Haddin (vice-captain), Dan Christian, Ed Cowan, Ben Hilfenhaus, Mike Hussey, Nathan Lyon, Shaun Marsh, James Pattinson, Ricky Ponting, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc, David Warner.
To contact the reporter on this story: Dan Baynes in Sydney at firstname.lastname@example.org