Steven Smith included in Australia squad as cover for Michael Clarke

Steven Smith has played seven Tests for Australia, the most recent being during February’s tour of India © PTI

Sydney: Jun 24, 2013

Amid Australia‘s concerns about the fitness of captain Michael Clarke, all-rounder Steven Smith was added to the squad on Sunday for the Ashes Test series in England.

Star batsman Clarke’s longstanding back problem means he hasn’t played a competitive match since an ill-fated tour of India in March where Australia lost the Test series 4-0.

Clarke did not feature at all in the title-holders’ group stage exit from the ICC Champions Trophy 2013, won by India in a dramatic five-run victory over England in a rain-affected final at Edgbaston on Sunday.

Smith will join the 16-man squad on Monday, ahead of Australia’s first-class tour opener against Somerset this week, and remain until at least the second Test at Lord’s.

But while his hopes of playing in the Ashes increased, those of Fawad Ahmed receded after it was revealed the Pakistan-born leg-spinner would return from the UK to Australia on Monday in order to complete his citizenship.

Australia are effectively missing two batsmen at present with Clarke injured and opener David Warner suspended until the start of the first Test in Nottingham on July 10 following his bar-room attack on England’s Joe Root earlier this month.

In a statement issued by Cricket Australia, John Inverarity, the national selector, said: “The NSP (National Selection Panel) advises that Steven Smith has been added to the Australian Ashes squad until the beginning of the Second Test when it will be reviewed.

“Given David Warner is unavailable for the upcoming tour games against Somerset and Worcestershire and while Michael Clarke continues to make good progress from a back injury, we feel further batting cover is required,” former Australia batsman Inverarity added.

Smith has played seven Tests and was a member of the Australian side that lost the most recent Ashes series 3-1 on home soil in 2010/11.

He made 133 for Australia A in their win over Ireland last week but managed just 10 and nought in Bristol this week.

Ahmed managed just two wickets from two tour matches for Australia A, against Ireland and Gloucestershire, and returned figures of none for 80 on Sunday in a match attended by Inverarity and Australia Test coach Mickey Arthur.

The 31-year-old played three Sheffield Shield games for Victoria late last season and took 16 wickets at 28.37, bringing him to the notice of Australian selectors and retired leg-spin great Shane Warne.

But only last week Inverarity, speaking to the BBC, said that if Ahmed played in the Ashes, “the pressure on him will be extraordinary”.

And the fact on Sunday saw Australia also add teenage spinner Ashton Agar to their Ashes squad, albeit as a “development player”, was a further blow to Ahmed’s hopes of making his Test debut in England.

Fawad Ahmed will return to Australia tomorrow (Monday) while he goes through the processes required of him to become an Australian citizen and remains a player of interest to the National Selection Panel,” Inverarity said in Sunday’s CA statement.

“Ashton Agar is to accompany the Ashes Squad until the beginning of the Second Test as a development player.

England will be bidding for a third straight Test series win over Australia — something they last managed in the 1950s — when the five-match Ashes series starts at Nottingham’s Trent Bridge ground.