India in Australia 2011-12 December 29, 2011

Harris likely to be fit for Sydney Test, says Clarke

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Michael Clarke, the Australia captain, has said fast bowler Ryan Harris has looked ready to play while bowling in the nets, though he is not sure if Harris is 100% fit. Harris, who missed the MCG Test, could be available for the New Year's Test in Sydney, which would give the selectors the option to play four quicks after the three fast bowlers who played the Boxing Day Test employed speed and swing to maul India.

Since recovering from a hip complaint that kept him out of the South Africa tour, Harris has played in the Twenty20 Big Bash League while also committing to a staunch fitness regimen in order to improve his ability to stay sound for five days of a Test. He bowled sturdily in the nets at the MCG during the first Test and will likely spend more time with the team in Sydney irrespective of whether or not he is named in the squad. Beyond Sydney is Perth's often fiery pitch, where Harris claimed nine wickets against England last summer.

"I've seen Ryan bowl in the nets over the last few days and he looks pretty good," Clarke said. "I don't know if he is 100% fit but from what I've seen in the nets he looks ready to go. That's probably one of the bonuses we've got at the moment: our attack is bowling really well, and we have guys like Ryan on the mend and not too far from being fully fit. I think it is a good problem to have."

Adding to the anticipation of Harris' return is the level of discomfort inflicted on India's batsmen by James Pattinson, Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus in Melbourne, the trio sharing 19 wickets in Australia's 122-run victory. Given the SCG's recent tendency to produce grassy surfaces that offer seam and swing in addition to the more traditional spin, Clarke said he and the selection panel will consider the merits of playing four quicks at the ground if conditions are suitable.

"The SCG of late has had a fair bit of grass on it, so we'll have to assess conditions. That's something we have to talk about as a selection panel; it is a good option to have. It is great news for us if Ryan is fully fit. He puts pressure on the rest of the bowlers and gives us an extra string to our bow.

"Ryan has had a lot of success for us and he's a quality bowler, so we need to look at the conditions. If it is going to spin or if it is a bit dry we can talk about two spinners, we can talk about an allrounder, but if it has got grass on it like it did last year there is a chance we could play four fast bowlers."

Daniel Christian, the uncapped allrounder, is another player who will be considered in the continued absence of vice-captain Shane Watson, who short of a medical miracle will be strictly a spectator in Sydney. Clarke and the selectors were vindicated in their use of four bowlers on an MCG surface that retained its life throughout, but may want to take a different tack at the SCG, where the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman have formidable records.

"This pitch had a fair bit of grass on it for the MCG, and I felt there was going to be enough there through the whole game," Clarke said. "I've got confidence in [Nathan] Lyon as well; I think he's a wonderful talent, he can hold up an end even if he's not taking wickets. I think we picked the best XI players in these conditions, on this pitch."

As a fielding captain, Clarke enjoyed perhaps his best match to date, shuffling his resources efficiently. He particularly enjoyed the fact that on eight occasions he brought a bowler on and the bowler got a wicket in his first over of a spell.

"It is nice to have bowling changes work. For me the most important thing about bowling changes is to manage the bowlers at the right time. If I feel somebody else can take a wicket I'll have a crack with that, and sometimes it doesn't work. It helps when you've got stock like I've got: three fast bowlers, bowling with great control, good pace. That makes a big difference and then it is about trying to manage them as best as I can."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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  • NS_23 on December 31, 2011, 12:36 GMT

    When the three fast bowlers are bowling well, there's no need of bringing in a fourth quick. Its better to play a spinner in the team as it makes the playing eleven look much more balanced. Plus you do not want to have Lyon unsettled when he is starting to gel up in the team.

  • zenboomerang on December 31, 2011, 7:08 GMT

    @disco_bob... Yes tough call for selectors - I'm stumped on who to pick... Last year it was the seamers that did the damage - the spinners Swann & Beer managing just 1 wkt per innings... S Smith was terrible bowling getting thumped 13/67/0 @5.15/over... Yet the year before the spinners cleaned up in the 2nd innings for both teams... It will depend on the 1st innings of both teams & how long they stay out there - it will start turning during the 3rd day & get better for spin - if the weather predictions are right...

  • zenboomerang on December 31, 2011, 7:07 GMT

    @whitesXI... Agree about the wicket, one of the best I have ever seen... It was a true battle of bat & ball... The curator & the 6 pace bowlers performed at a top class level... The batsmen looked inconsistent playing wide of the body shots (Clarke twice out playing needlessly back onto his stumps) & losing concentration... The bowlers as a group batted better than the batsmen... lol... Re The pitch:- took 3 years to prepare & they are now getting them to perform consistently, which is what everyone wants...

  • zenboomerang on December 31, 2011, 7:05 GMT

    @hyclass :- "I think describing the Indian batsmen as being ,'mauled by pace' is a considerable exaggeration of the facts"... lol... Ohh, the 19 of the 20 Indian wkts falling to the pace attack well within 4 days didn't give you a hint... The pitch was fairly benign giving just a small amount of seam... It was the batters failing against very good seam bowling by both teams that was the exciting part of the match... You also failed to examine the 1st day conditions which helped the Indian bowling attack - humidity & rain...

  • dummy4fb on December 31, 2011, 6:46 GMT

    Guys India will surely bounce back...........i surely wud liek to c Rohit sharma instead of Vikrat kohli.....rohit has got a better technique and timing......he plays th ball late and has a lot of time before h plays a shot...........h also wud b more hungry for runs after having made a comeback to the squad.........The aussies will surely fo with 4 quicks but i still feel Inida will be better prepared this time around....i agree tht ashwin shud bowl more to teh aus tail enders

  • dummy4fb on December 31, 2011, 2:48 GMT

    every team is strong in their own country I am very much sure that India will give string reply now from the second test onwards and fight back well

  • hyclass on December 31, 2011, 2:02 GMT

    @whitesXI..having investigated the results of Test matches over the last 5 years,Im aware that there was little need to prepare results wickets.In fact,other than Adelaide,pitches in this country gave bowlers every chance.Batsmen have always lived with Damacles sword hovering that one mistake will lead to their downfall.Bowlers on the other hand have no such caveat and are regularly gifted wickets,regardless of their application or concentration.Its why a certain lattitude has to be extended to batsmen.When wickets were naturally occurring,rather than drop-in,local conditions already presented challenges to the batsmen.Each ground was known for its unique characterisitics,just as playing in India implied certain styles of play would succeed over others.This pitch played two heights and paces & there was seam and swing movement.The reductions in innings totals indicate an even deterioration in the wicket itself,making it equally possible that if India had batted first,they may have won.

  • disco_bob on December 30, 2011, 22:44 GMT

    Of the 3 options all are difficult to make. Keep the same team, is a good idea but that conflicts with them keeping the same team of 4 quicks for the Oval Test and they got carved up. Playing 5 bowlers is good because you show faith in Lyon and play 4 quicks, but then again our batting has been fragile. Playing 4 quicks only, is tough on Lyon and changes a winning team. I'm glad we have selectors to make the decision, that's why they're there. Let's just see what they decide and make a judgement call on the selectors after the match.

  • AussieGreek on December 30, 2011, 22:39 GMT

    Of particular note is the absence of Michel Johnson has been beneficial to Australia. They say on his day he is a match winner but on more ocassions over the past 2 years he has been a match loser get milked for runs and releasing pressure. He was horrible in recent times with his arm low and scrambled seam and poor action through the crease. Cant wait for the return of Watson and Cummins. Look forward to the not too distant future of Cummins/Paterson new ball attack.

  • Kaushan10 on December 30, 2011, 21:40 GMT

    I am Sri Lankan fan who loves the Australian brand of cricket. I must say that with the bowling attack they have and under Clarkes captaincy they will be on top of the world soon. They just need the bats to come to the stage. Hussey still has a lot to offer. However, ponting needs to retire not only because he is out of sorts but because he is the reason why the world hates Australian cricket eventhough he is argubly one of the best bats ever in the world. With Tim Paine possibly replacing Haddin, Aussies will be a very hard team to beat. Michael Clarke is the most astute captain goin around in the world today. India other hand need to get some tactical inputs into dhoni's head. Lot of people beleive that Dhoni is a more of a lucky captain .. previously everything he touched turned to gold. Now the world can see what type of cricket brain he has. Indian media's so called "captain cool" is all that he is. Cricket needs good captains to take the game forward not unorthodox movie stars

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