An all-rounder whom selectors had seemingly pigeonholed as a limited-overs specialist has surged into contention for the Ashes.
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Cricket Australia confirms contracts
Australian fast bowler, Mitchell Starc, leads a list of 20 players who are awarded top level contracts for the upcoming 2013-14 seasons.
Tasmanian James Faulkner leapfrogged recent Test debutant Moises Henriques to earn one of Cricket Australia's playing contracts for the 2013-14 year.
Of the nine players who earned contract upgrades in the current 2012-13 year, due to weight of national-team appearances, Faulkner was among the six additions to the base list this time around, alongside Ed Cowan, Phillip Hughes, George Bailey, Glenn Maxwell and Clint Mckay.
The contract list expanded from 17 to 20, and the retirements of Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey meant there was only a single casualty from this year's changes: out-of-favour Victorian batsman David Hussey. Steve Smith and Aaron Finch joined Henriques as recently upgraded players to miss out on a new deal, despite Smith's success when introduced late in the disastrous Test series in India.
The other notable absentees were Usman Khawaja, whose presence on the periphery of the Australian squad meant he has not played a first-class match since the end of November, and Jackson Bird, the now-injured seamer whose man-of-the-match performance in Sydney in January against Sri Lanka capped a stunning introduction to Tests.
Injury-plagued quicks Pat Cummins and Ryan Harris had their contracts renewed, as did reserve keeper Brad Haddin and now-fringe paceman Ben Hilfenhaus.
With Australia to play 13 Tests - including away and home Ashes series - and 26 limited-overs internationals from July to next June, the squad theoretically has been skewed to reflect a priority for Tests.
Faulkner does not turn 23 until later this month, but the faith shown in him by Tasmanian selectors - he made his debut at 18 - has meant he has played 95 domestic matches.
Despite his impressive form across all three formats - and in his eight limited-overs internationals - his inclusion is intriguing given his only prior selection for Australia A in the long format came in mid-2011, for a tour of Zimbabwe he missed due to injury. In November selectors selected an Australia A team laden with all-rounders, including Henriques and John Hastings, to face South Africa but ignored Faulkner.
While Henriques' skills are skewed in favour of his batting, Faulkner is a better bowler, which is reflected in the left-armer's Shield record of 125 wickets at 22.34. His batting average is just below 30 but the Tigers have been prepared to bat him in their top six.
The player who started the season behind Shane Watson in Australia's all-rounder pecking order, Andrew McDonald, has regained full fitness but will play only Twenty20 for the next two months, in the Indian Premier League, as will Faulkner.
Chief selector John Inverarity said he expects Watson, who is also IPL-bound, will resume bowling ''quite soon'' and to feature in the Champions Trophy and Ashes.
Inverarity also confirmed Harris was in strong contention to feature in the Ashes but may need to be nursed through.
2013-14 CONTRACTED PLAYERS: George Bailey (Tas), Michael Clarke (NSW), Ed Cowan (Tas), Pat Cummins (NSW), Xavier Doherty (Tas), James Faulkner (Tas), Brad Haddin (NSW), Ryan Harris (Qld), Ben Hilfenhaus (Tas), Phillip Hughes (SA), Mitch Johnson (WA), Nathan Lyon (SA), Glenn Maxwell (Vic), Clint McKay (Vic), James Pattinson (Vic), Peter Siddle (Vic), Mitchell Starc (NSW), Matthew Wade (Vic), David Warner (NSW), Shane Watson (NSW).
In: George Bailey, Ed Cowan, James Faulkner, Phillip Hughes, Glenn Maxwell, Clint McKay.
Out: Mike Hussey, Ricky Ponting (retired), David Hussey