Australia’s Khawaja, Pattinson confirmed for Ashes opener

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Melbourne

Australia coach Justin Langer has confirmed James Pattinson and Usman Khawaja are certain starters for the opening Ashes Test in Birmingham.
Khawaja passed a fitness Test on Monday after recovering from a hamstring injury and Langer confirmed the left-hander will bat at number three, while fast bowler Pattinson is set to feature in his first Test match since February 2016.
“Usman Khawaja will definitely be in,” Langer told reporters. “He’s fit, ready to go, he’s playing well. “He’s a seasoned pro for us, he averages 40-odd in Test cricket, his hammy (hamstring) is good, he’s running well, he’s passed all the fitness Tests so he’s ready to go. He’ll bat number three.”
On Pattinson’s return to the lineup, Langer added: (He’s) just a very, very good bowler. I’m sure (captain Tim Paine) will work out ways of using him.”
Selectors face several crunch decisions ahead of the first Test at Edgbaston starting Thursday, with Langer consigning Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and Peter Siddle to a three-way duel for the third specialist fast bowling spot.
“Like in all these selections, there’s literally a case for 17 blokes to play,” Langer said. “There’s probably three to be fair, Starcy, Peter Siddle and Josh Hazlewood, for one spot.
“We won’t rotate them per se, but we’ll just pick the best three, probably not four, but three for every game. It won’t be different opposition, certainly different conditions.”
While Steve Smith and David Warner both featured and looked the part at the recent World Cup, Cameron Bancroft — the third player banned after the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa last year — is still working his way back into the team.—AFP

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