Australia's Usman Khawaja makes his way from the pitch after loosing his wicket caught by Jonny Bairstow for 8 on the first day of the 3rd Ashes Test cricket match between England and Australia at Headingley cricket ground in Leeds, England, Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
Australia's Usman Khawaja makes his way from the pitch after loosing his wicket caught by Jonny Bairstow for 8 on the first day of the 3rd Ashes Test cricket match between England and Australia at Headingley cricket ground in Leeds, England, Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Jon Super)

Selectors swing Ashes axe for fourth Test

Usman Khawaja has been dropped for the fourth Ashes Test making way for the return of Steve Smith and Mitch Starc is battling with Peter Siddle for the final bowling spot.

Australian selectors have stuck with Marcus Harris as David Warner's opening partner with Marnus Labuschagne to bat at number three when the Ashes defining clash gets underway at Old Trafford on Wednesday.

James Pattinson has also been left out of a 12 man-squad which includes Starc after his seven-wicket haul in the tour game against Derbyshire last week.

 

A final pitch inspection on match day could determine whether Starc gets his first start for the series in Manchester where Australia can retain the Ashes with a win.

"The decision on the 12th man will be one of the bowlers," coach Justin Langer said.

"Whatever three (fast bowlers) we select we're going to have a very good bowling attack."

Siddle played the first two Tests but missed the third at Headingley, while the non-appearance of Starc in the series has surprised plenty.

But the left-arm quick showed signs of the control he had been searching for in the match against Derbyshire, as well as his wicket-taking ability, finishing the match with two wickets in two balls.

Khawaja's omission, after making 122 runs in his six innings in the series, without a half century, could make it hard for the 32-year-old to get back.

But someone had to make way for Smith, who returns after missing the third Test loss with concussion.

After throwing balls to Smith for half an hour in the nets on Tuesday, Langer was confident the batting superstar would return to the form he showed in pounding two centuries in Australia's series opening win at Edgbaston.

"He's moving really well. We're hopeful that he gets back into the zone, hits the ball off the middle of the bat," Langer said.

"The whole time he's been here he's been batting well. So let's hope he can continue that. It's important for our team and it's just nice to know that he's back in the team."

Australian XII: Tim Paine ©, David Warner, Marcus Harris, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Matthew Wade, Pat Cummins, Peter Siddle, Mitch Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon.