Australia v India, 3rd Test, Perth

Australia undecided on all-pace attack

Brydon Coverdale in Perth

January 12, 2012

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The WACA pitch of the eve of the third Test between Australia and India, Perth, January 12, 2012
The WACA pitch on the eve of the third Test © ESPNcricinfo Ltd
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Players/Officials: Michael Clarke | Nathan Lyon | Mitchell Starc
Series/Tournaments: India tour of Australia
Teams: Australia

Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon might have to wait until the morning of the match to find out which of them will carry the drinks for the third Test against India in Perth. The Australians trained on Thursday afternoon at the WACA and were greeted by a pitch that had lost some of its colour from the previous day but was still green enough to encourage the fast men.

Curator plays down green pitch

  • The WACA pitch might have lost some of its colour during the week but retained a strong green tinge on match eve. However, the curator Cameron Sutherland said it was not necessarily a strong indicator that the ball would seam wildly, as the colour was partly due to a different grass being used.
  • "We were the first ones in Australia to trial this new grass," Sutherland said. "It's worked wonders for us. It's a high fibre content in the leaves, so it just holds its colour for longer. It's also very fine leaf, it's almost like a carpet, so it doesn't seam too much. In Shield cricket, I know we've been referred to having green seamers or green-top Shield wickets, but they haven't seamed around much at all."
  • Sutherland said whether the teams chose four fast men or a spinner, there would be plenty in the pitch for all the bowlers. "You'll definitely get the bounce and you might get a bit of turn," he said. "There's enough grass there to get a bit of purchase."

Australia played four fast bowlers against England last summer and won on a similar surface. However, the curator Cameron Sutherland said it was important not to read too much into the green tinge, which was partly caused by a new type of grass the WACA groundstaff had used over the past few years, and Australia's captain Michael Clarke said selection would be tough.

"We haven't selected a team yet," Clarke said when the Australians arrived at training on Thursday. "I haven't even seen the wicket today. I'll make sure I have a look before training and we'll make our decision tomorrow morning."

Asked what he would need to see to encourage him to play four fast men, Clarke said: "Exactly what I saw yesterday: a wicket that was pretty hard and had a lot of grass ... and we'll give it another day as well, see how it pans out the rest of the afternoon and have tomorrow morning to make the decision."

Conventional wisdom would suggest that India's batsmen would have more trouble against an all-pace attack on a pitch expected to offer plenty of bounce. The offspinner, Lyon, has taken only two wickets in the series and has spoken of how challenging it has been to bowl against India's batsmen due to their quick hands and ability to score anywhere around the wicket.

However, Clarke said he did not feel India would necessarily be more susceptible to pace at the WACA than spin, and he said he was loath to enter any Test without a slow-bowling option.

Whatever the Australians decide, they will be pleased to regain Ryan Harris, who took nine wickets in the Perth victory last summer. Harris has been sidelined since the first Test of the South African tour in November with a hip problem, and has had a string of other injuries during his short international career. He has spoken of his nerves at the possibility that he could break down again, but Clarke is confident Harris enters the Perth Test in a good space, physically.

"We get Ryan Harris back, who is as good a fast bowler as I've played with through my career and he's had a lot of success," Clarke said. "Being a fast bowler is much tougher than being a batsman, on your body, the actual workload and the pressure that goes through your body when you're bowling. Rhino bowls high 140ks and runs in hard.

"In series like this, when you have back-to-back Test matches, there's always extra strain on the guys. It's more so for fast bowlers. I'd love to see Rhino play every Test match now for the rest of his career but who knows how long it's going to go for. He's in a really good place, he's fit and strong at the moment. He's bowling as good as I've seen in the nets and I know he's looking forward to this opportunity."

The inclusion of Harris will be part of a straight swap for James Pattinson, who has been ruled out of the rest of the series with a foot injury. That leaves the Lyon-Starc decision as the only issue for Australia's selectors and Clarke said he believed Starc, who made his Test debut against New Zealand in December, had a bright future for Australia.

"Mitchell is a very talented young player," Clarke said. "We've seen him have a little bit of success over the last 12 months, whether it be first-class cricket, domestic cricket or for Australia. I think he's got a bright future for Australia. He bowls left-arm, he's quite tall and a very strong boy. He bowls good pace.

"It is certainly an advantage to have that option, even in this Test match, to give him an opportunity or to go with our spinner. But I think you're going to see a lot more of Mitchell over the next few years, that's for sure."

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by   on (January 13, 2012, 2:22 GMT)

if starc bowls short of a length in Perth, he will be punished - the secret is good length and let the bounce kill them. As for Lyon vs Starc - Lyon is hopeless and Clarke turned to himself and Hussey more in Sydney (says a lot) - so I would have preferred to see Ben Cutting or Harris get a run. Wont matter - it will be over in 3 days and the fourth bowler will be the 'rest' and change of end bowler

Posted by Marcio on (January 13, 2012, 2:09 GMT)

I see they've gone with Starc, which is probably the best decision. I do think Lyon is a potentially very good spin bowler, so they should look after him. But for this game, given the wicket and the way the Indians have played fast bowlers so far, Starc is a smart choice.

Posted by funkybluesman on (January 13, 2012, 1:20 GMT)

Prior to Warne coming along Australia would pretty much always play four quicks at the WACA. It was only Warne being the bowler he was that they would keep the slow bowler in for really pace friendly conditions. Lyon actually shows a lot of promise and could do well, but he isn't a Warne that screams for inclusion even on the most pace-friendly conditions. In Sydney it was like Clarke finally brought him on when he absolutely needed to because he'd bowled the three quicks as much as possible. If Watson was in the team providing a fourth seamer, then you'd probably keep the spinner, but against a team like India, unless it's really spinning conditions or you have a spinner of Warne's calibre, then it's better to go with the seam attack.

Posted by Micgyver on (January 13, 2012, 1:16 GMT)

Agree with Redneck,if Watson was playing,play Lyon.But im all for the 4 paceys playing.

Posted by smudgeon on (January 13, 2012, 1:07 GMT)

I quite liked what I saw of Starc against the Kiwis. It's a bit naive of people to expect that he's going to be the finished product in his first two tests, especially so young (although I can understand why, given the debuts of Cummins & Pattinson). I'd like to see him get another run, although I feel that perhaps he'll have to wait his turn as the current mix of bowlers is working well. As appealing as the idea of four quicks sounds, you kind of have to weigh up whether it's better to go with Lyon & let him sink or swim against the best players of spin. He's a smart kid, and you can tell he's learning with every match. For the Indians, I would like to see them swap Ashwin for Ojha, rather than the adding another quick. I just have a feeling that spin is going to play a key role in this test. And not just by way of another of Sehwag's "mystery ball" he unveiled in Sydney :)

Posted by landl47 on (January 13, 2012, 0:55 GMT)

I'm always sad to see a side go into a test with no spinner. Spin is an essential part of cricket, especially test cricket, and a game where there is no place for a spinner is the poorer for it. Australia has a problem in that Lyon isn't close to being a top-class spinner; in the 2 games so far he has two tailend wickets for 180 and, even more problematically, has gone for 4 an over, so he hasn't been able to keep an end tight. Still, since Aus without Watson haven't got a real all-rounder, Aus can't play 5 bowlers and I think Lyon will be out. Fortunately I don't think there's any way India will drop Ashwin; he's a defensive rather than an attacking bowler, but he does bowl fairly tight and he's looked a better batsman than some of India's alleged batting stars.

Posted by Rooboy on (January 13, 2012, 0:22 GMT)

lol Sir_Freddie_Flintoff!! Lyon's test bowling average is just over one run per wicket more than the so called 'best spinner in the world', Swann. Just goes to show how overrated Swann is when his test average is barely superior to a club cricketer ...

Posted by redneck on (January 13, 2012, 0:00 GMT)

if we had watson id be for playing lyon but we dont so i think we should go with 4 quicks with clarke to roll the arm over if needed! hussey isnt a bowler and shouldnt be used as one!

Posted by kempy21 on (January 12, 2012, 23:55 GMT)

The longer term picture needs to be looked at here. The main difference between Lyon and Starc (bowling styles aside) is that Lyon is viewed as the #1 spinning option going forward, whereas Starc would be in amongst 3-4 young bowlers ready to take that next step in a few years. In my opinion we need to be putting Lyon's development ahead of Starc's and Lyon needs to play against the best opposition he can. Which are the Indians. There is a long line of fast bowlers in the country who will be vying for selection or re-selection (when fit) (Johnson, Cummins, Pattinson, Cutting, Hazelwood, Faulkner, Copeland, Starc) and it would be folly to give one of those bowlers a chance for 1 test for the sake of your #1 young and developing spinner - who has performed very well against SL, SA and NZ prior to leaner times here.

Posted by bitofcricket on (January 12, 2012, 23:31 GMT)

lol Sir Freddie. Just keep hoping the tour of India was an anomoly!

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Brydon CoverdaleClose
Brydon Coverdale Assistant Editor Possibly the only person to win a headline-writing award for a title with the word "heifers" in it, Brydon decided agricultural journalism wasn't for him when he took up his position with ESPNcricinfo in Melbourne. His cricketing career peaked with an unbeaten 85 in the seconds for a small team in rural Victoria on a day when they could not scrounge up 11 players and Brydon, tragically, ran out of partners to help him reach his century. He is also a compulsive TV game-show contestant and has appeared on half a dozen shows in Australia.
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