Australia's Ashes squad: Hosts name team for first Test against England at the Gabba

Everything you need to know about the Australia squad as they bid to retain the urn.

By Callum Davis Updated: 5 December 2021 - 9.51am

Australia have named their team for the first Ashes Test as the countdown to the start of the series ramps up.

The Ashes will be contested this winter when England take on Australia, as the fiercest rivalry in Test cricket resumes for the 72nd series between the two old enemies.

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The Aussies hold the Ashes and haven’t lost a Test series against England since 2015, with the tourists desperate to avoid a repeat of the humiliating 4-0 defeat Down Under back in 2017.

Every ball from the five-match series will be show exclusively live on BT Sport with the action getting underway on December 8 in Brisbane.

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Who is in Australia's squad for the first Test?

Australia have named their team for the first Ashes Test three days ahead of time, with left-arm quick Mitchell Starc keeping his place and Travis Head completing the batting line-up.

Head coach Justin Langer had said he was keen to keep England guessing about the final make-up of his XI for the series opener at The Gabba, which gets under way on Wednesday, but the hosts instead chose to give an early look at their side.

Starc saw off stiff competition from in-form seamer Jhye Richardson, who pushed his case with eight wickets and a player-of-the-match performance on his most recent Sheffield Shield trip to Brisbane last month.

Head, meanwhile, got the nod over Usman Khawaja and will come in at number five.

Australia XI: David Warner, Marcus Harris, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Cameron Green, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins (captain), Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood

Who will captain Australia?

28-year-old fast bowler Pat Cummins will skipper Australia for the first time, with former captain Steve Smith named as his deputy.

Tim Paine stepped down as captain less than three weeks before the Ashes over a sexting exchange with a former colleague.

The wicketkeeper has since announced he will be taking a leave of absence "for the foreseeable future" and looks set to sit out the five-match series.

Paine, 36, had been expected to lead his side in the series against England which starts in Brisbane on December 8, but made the “incredibly difficult decision” to leave the role.

Speaking to reporters in Hobart, Paine said: “It’s an incredibly difficult decision but the right one for me, my family and cricket.

“As a background on my decision, nearly four years ago I was involved in a text exchange with a then colleague.

“Although exonerated, I deeply regretted this incident at the time and still do today.”

Tim Paine has stepped down as captain just before The Ashes

Cummins becomes only the second specialist fast bowler to lead Australia in Tests after Ray Lindwall in 1956. He is the first bowler of any kind to hold the role since Richie Benaud in 1964.

"I am honoured to accept this role ahead of what will be a massive Ashes summer," said Cummins.

"I hope I can provide the same leadership Tim has given the group in the past few years.

"With Steve and I as captains, a number of very senior players in this squad and some great young talent coming through we are a strong and tightly knit group."

Who are Australia's batsmen?

Left hander Marcus Harris looks set to open the batting for Australia alongside David Warner.

Australia have struggled to find a settled partnership at the top of the order, but it's hoped Harris can replicate his recent domestic form on the international stage.

The 29-year-old averages 23.77 from 10 Tests and made 655 runs at an average of 54.58 for Leicestershire in the County Championship this summer.

Chairman of selectors Bailey added: "Harris has had limited opportunities in the past and he's been in and out a bit, so we'd love nothing more than for him hopefully to get an opportunity to get an extended run at it.

"What we have liked is his consistency. He's obviously been a prolific run-scorer at domestic level here, but we also love the fact he went overseas and had a great year for Leicester as well."

It was hoped that opener Will Pucovski could make his Ashes debut but the 23-year-old will now miss the opening two Tests following a blow to head.

Despite a particularly unsuccessful series against England in 2019, Warner will once again lead the line for Australia at the top of the order.

England seamer Stuart Broad took Warner's wicket seven times in 2019, but the left-hander's experience will prove invaluable in the red-hot cauldron of Ashes cricket.

Steve Smith will be hoping to emulate his record-breaking run haul from 2019

In the middle order, Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith will be asked to score the bulk of the runs.

Smith captained Australia to a 5-0 whitewash in the last Ashes Down Under before being hit with an 18-month ban for his part in the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa.

The 32-year-old returned to Test cricket in time for the 2019 Ashes series and went on to prove England's tormentor-in-chief, plundering 774 runs in a man-of-the-series display.

The number three-ranked batsman has only played in two matches in 2021 but already has 303 runs to his name and Australia will hope he can emulate his past successes to frustrate England once again.

Usman Khawaja is recalled having not played Test cricket since August 2019, when Australia retained the Ashes with a 2-2 draw in England.

The 34-year-old played in the first three Tests before being dropped for the final two matches after defeat at Headingley. He will likely be competing with Travis Head for a spot in the middle order this time around.

Who are Australia's bowlers?

Australia boast one of the most formidable fast-bowling trios in the world with Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood making up the backbone of their attack.

Newly-appointed captain Cummins will lead the bowling unit and will be confident of adding to his tally of England wickets, which stands at 52 from the previous two series.

Fellow quicks Starc and Hazlewood have positive memories of facing off against England and all three played a pivotal role in the 2-2 series draw in 2019.

Hazlewood has a 24.43 average against England and already has 10 wickets to his name this year in just two Test appearances against India back in January.

Starc has 55 wickets against England but has had a slower start to his 2021, taking two wickets with an average of 96.66.

Nathan Lyon has mixed memories of facing against England

Elsewhere Nathan Lyon will once again be Australia's primary spin option.

The 33-year-old will be best remembered for his calamitous cameo in the third Test of the 2019 series at Headingly, when an inspired Ben Stokes scored a remarkable battling century to steer England to an unlikely victory.

But that day was the only blot on the off-spinner's copybook from another-wise exemplary series. Indeed, the world number 20-ranked bowler has amassed 85 wickets in matches against England and will be a sure-fire threat to the tourists' batting line-up.

Leg-spinner Mitchell Swepson could make his Test debut after being named as the second spinner.

The Queenslander was selected for Australia's tour of South Africa earlier this year but the series was scrapped due to Covid.

Ben Stokes' inclusion in England's Ashes squad is a huge boost to their chances Down Under

Who is in England’s Ashes squad?

England announced their 17-man squad to take on Australia in early October.

After months of speculation, Ben Stokes was added after declaring himself ready to tour.

The all-rounder had taken an indefinite break from cricket to focus on his mental wellbeing and allow his injured finger to heal.

His return was confirmed on Monday 25 October, and he is set to play an integral role as England look to regain the Ashes.

Player guide

There were no big surprises in Chris Silverwood’s initial squad, with the injured Jofra Archer and Sam Curran left out as expected.

Jack Leach and Dom Bess are the only spin options, with Haseeb Hameed and Dawid Malan also involved.

England squad: Joe Root (c), James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Dom Bess, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Haseeb Hameed, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Ollie Pope, Ollie Robinson, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.