Clarke considers all-pace attack
Mitchell Starc and Ben Hilfenhaus may both be included in a four-man pace attack at the Gabba after Australia's captain Michael Clarke was greeted with a pitch maintaining its green tinge on Thursday. In the lead-up to the match, the Australians had indicated that the offspinner Nathan Lyon was likely to play in the first Test against South Africa, starting on Friday, but he is now no certainty.
"I was expecting to have a decision for you today but the wicket has changed a little bit since yesterday," Clarke said. "I need to wait and see if it changes any more come tomorrow morning. The weather plays a big part as well, if it's overcast compared to sun shining.
"The forecast is okay for the week but I really want to wait until tomorrow morning to give ourselves a really good look at it. At this stage we're still deciding do we play four fast bowlers or do we play three fast bowlers and Nathan."
Peter Siddle and James Pattinson appeared to be the two certainties in Australia's pace line-up as both men have enjoyed plenty of Sheffield Shield bowling over the past six weeks. Starc and Hilfenhaus were both at the Champions League Twenty20 in South Africa and have had limited red-ball preparation, and while Clarke said the selectors had discussed which fast man to leave out, he was not willing to reveal the decision while the possibility of including them all remained.
"We've certainly spoken about it, that's for sure," Clarke said. "But until I've thought about what the best attack is or if we're going to go three quicks or four quicks, I don't think it would be fair to the players if I told you that. I think it's important that we wait and see what conditions we're faced with tomorrow morning, give ourselves the best chance to have a look at conditions, and then we'll work out what the best XI is."
Hilfenhaus is Australia's highest-ranked bowler in the ICC Test rankings at No.6 in the world and has been one of the team's most consistent performers since returning to the side against India last summer with a reworked action. Earlier this week, he said he was not viewing Australia's net sessions as a bowl-off with the other members of the attack, and he was simply enjoying being able to work with the red ball again after a period of short-form cricket.
"I don't see it as fighting for a place," Hilfenhaus told ESPNcricinfo. "The conditions are what they are and the selectors have to make a decision on what they want for the conditions, what make-up they believe will win a game of cricket. You're never comfortable being left out. All I can control is my preparation and doing all I can to make sure I'm as ready as I can be.
"It's actually nice to be able to run in and try to bowl the same ball twice, rather than worry about bowling six different deliveries. It was nice to get back in the groove [during the Sheffield Shield match] last week."
If Australia take an all-pace attack in on Friday it will be their first Gabba Test without a specialist spinner since November 2008, when they beat New Zealand with Brett Lee, Stuart Clark, Mitchell Johnson and Shane Watson sharing the workload. On that occasion, Clarke and Andrew Symonds were only required for a few overs of part-time spin.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here