Boxing Day Test: Hughes dropped, Ponting remains in Australian team

Melbourne: Phil Hughes and Usman Khawaja have been dropped and former captain Ricky Ponting has gained another reprieve and been included in Australia`s 13-man squad for the first Test against India beginning Dec. 26.

Batsmen Ed Cowan and Shaun Marsh and paceman Ben Hilfenhaus were added to the squad named Wednesday. Cowan won a call-up for the first time after scoring centuries in his past four games, including the ongoing Chairman`s XI match against India in Canberra.

Marsh returns after recovering from a back injury suffered during the recent tour of South Africa. Fast bowler Hilfenhaus was recalled after some strong recent form at the domestic first-class level.

Allrounder Shane Watson remains sidelined through injury while Dan Christian is in the squad and could make his debut at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Ryan Harris was also overlooked due to fitness concerns.

"Ed Cowan has been in excellent form in recent weeks," national selector John Inverarity said in a statement. "His inclusion is in recognition of his consistently good performances and we anticipate that he can provide steadiness at the top of the order.”

"Ben Hilfenhaus has regained form this season and he provides a strong and reliable bowling option."

Inverarity said both dropped players remain in Australia`s future plans.

"We see both Phillip Hughes and Usman Khawaja as developing players with bright futures and remaining as players of significance," he said.

"They are determined young men and I know that they will work hard to produce compelling performances and push strongly for further consideration."

The 37-year-old Ponting has not scored a century in nearly two years, has averaged 50 just once in his past seven series and has made 323 runs at an average of 24 in seven Tests over the past 12 months. The 158-Test veteran looks set to play in his 15th Boxing Day Test.

The Australian squad assembles in Melbourne beginning Thursday.

Australia (from): Michael Clarke (captain), Brad Haddin (vice captain), Dan Christian, Ed Cowan, Ben Hilfenhaus, Michael Hussey, Nathan Lyon, Shaun Marsh, James Pattinson, Ricky Ponting, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc, David Warne

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