SYDNEY (AFP) - Australia on Tuesday included four uncapped players in its squad for the three-Test tour of Sri Lanka next month, while batsman Phil Hughes was anointed as Shane Watson's opening partner.
Offspinner Nathan Lyon, batsman Shaun Marsh, and young fast bowlers Trent Copeland and James Pattinson are in the 15-man squad, but there was no room for pace duo Doug Bollinger and Ben Hilfenhaus.
Michael Clarke leads the team in his first Test series as full-time captain on a tour from August 6 to September 20, which also includes two Twenty20 matches and five one-dayers.
Ricky Ponting, Watson and Michael Hussey provide experience, and chairman of selectors Andrew Hilditch said the squad was a good blend of young and old.
"It is obviously a very important time for Australian cricket as we strive to get back to the top of world rankings in Test cricket," he said.
"But at the same time it is a very exciting opportunity for this squad as it takes on Sri Lanka on its home soil.
"We believe the squad has a really good blend of experience and young talented players who we are sure are ready for the challenges ahead.
"There is a quiet confidence about the group, and we are sure this squad will do all in its power to get the Australian Test team back to where it needs to be in world cricket."
Hughes got the nod to open with Watson following his run splurge late in Australia's domestic season, and Hilditch believes the pairing has the makings of a great opening partnership.
"Phillip richly deserves this opportunity with his Sheffield Shield performances, and of course has already proved he can succeed at international level," he said.
"He ended the interstate season in great form during the Shield final and has continued on with a great series, featuring three hundreds, on the Australia A tour of Zimbabwe."
South Australian offspinner Lyon was selected after just four first-class games, with the 23-year-old impressing on the just-completed Australia A tour of Zimbabwe.
"Nathan may be a surprise selection, but he impressed all who have seen him in the last year," said Hilditch.
"He is a young man with immense potential and we feel he will take this opportunity should he get the chance to play in Sri Lanka."
Lyon said he was stunned to get the call.
"I looked down at the phone and saw Andrew's name pop up and thought 'geez, what is going on here'," Lyon said.
"It has certainly come out of the blue but I'm not going to knock it back, that is for sure."
Left-arm spinner Michael Beer, who played one Ashes Test last summer, was also included, while paceman Copeland was picked on the strength of 87 wickets from his 17 first class matches.
Pattinson, 21, is on the plane despite having only played eight first class games.
"James is a young fast bowler with the potential to play an important role for Australia in all three forms of the game and we look forward to watching his further development during this tour," said Hilditch.
Pattinson follows elder brother Darren into Test cricket, although his sibling only played one match when he was plucked from obscurity to turn out for England, his birth country, against South Africa in 2008.
"It came unexpected for myself and Darren really. It happened all really quick for us, it's come as a good shock," Pattinson told reporters.
"But I can ring him up and learn from him. It happened to him, so I'm sure he'll be there to wish me well and teach me a few things."
The Test series opens in Galle from August 31 with following Tests in Kandy from September 8 and Colombo from September 16.
Michael Clarke (capt), Shane Watson (vice-capt), Michael Beer, Trent Copeland, Brad Haddin, Ryan Harris, Phillip Hughes, Michael Hussey, Mitchell Johnson, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Shaun Marsh, James Pattinson, Ricky Ponting, Peter Siddle.