Sydney: Allrounder James Faulkner has surged into contention to play in this year's Ashes series in England after being a surprise recipient of a Cricket Australia contract, reports said.
The Tasmanian, who was previously regarded as a limited-overs specialist, leapfrogged recent Test debutant Moises Henriques to earn a central contract for the 2013-14 year, from July. Faulkner does not turn 23 until later this month but has already played 95 domestic matches for his island state.
In November selectors picked 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 Sheffield Shield record of 125 wickets at 22.34," Fairfax newspapers said.
"His batting average is just below 30 but the Tigers (Tasmania) have been prepared to bat him in their top six."
The Daily Telegraph said that Faulkner has "rocketed into the frame" for the Ashes tour in July after Henriques missed out on a contract.
Of the nine players who earned contract upgrades in the current 2012-13 year, Faulkner was among the six additions to the base list this time around, alongside Ed Cowan, Phil Hughes, George Bailey, Glenn Maxwell and Clint McKay.
Among others who missed out on contracts were David Hussey, Aaron Finch and Steve Smith, despite his batting success when introduced late in the disastrous recent Test series in India.
Other notable absentees were Usman Khawaja, who has not played a first-class match since 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.
With Australia due to play 13 Tests -- including away-and-home Ashes series -- and 26 limited-overs internationals in the July-to-June period, the squad theoretically has been skewed to reflect a priority for Tests, Fairfax said.
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