Australia v South Africa, first Test, Brisbane

Clarke considers all-pace attack

Brydon Coverdale

November 8, 2012

Comments: 26 | Text size: A | A

Ben Hilfenhaus looks on during training, Brisbane, November 7, 2012
Ben Hilfenhaus' cause is being aided by the Gabba's green tinge © Getty Images

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

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Posted by   on (November 8, 2012, 23:17 GMT)

Starc needs to play for variety, i think if Amla has a weekness then its lefties ( if he has one.) but a good offie against there lefties would help.

Posted by bonobo on (November 8, 2012, 22:46 GMT)

Unless its an absolute flyer, i.e you genuinely think its a pitch where you should knock the batting team over for 250. I dont see the benefit of a 4 man attack. Lyon has proven himself over the last 12 months, Starc is still to be tested. You have enough stock bowlers in Clarke, Hussey, Warner and even Ponting, that the Aussies can still ensure they stick to recent plan of rotating the pace bowlers in short spells to keep them at top speed, without Watson. If the SAffrers get set, they are class batsmen, and I think you would need some options. But, i can see the case, the Saffters are great players of pitch, Lyons no Murali and they are undercooked on the fast pitches the Aussies are setting up....and Kallis is showing a chink in his armer against real speed.

Posted by Shaggy076 on (November 8, 2012, 22:29 GMT)

Gilly4 ever not sure how you can argue that Hilfenhaus form is dubious. He was the form bowler last summer. One day and T20 form should never come into consideration when picking the test team. Hilfenhaus was awesome last summer and as such should just be picked. I'm conifdent of the pace attack of Siddle, Hilfenhaus and Patterson and there is no need for the fourth paceman. Starc is in very good form but like many before him needs to wait for an opening.

Posted by Beertjie on (November 8, 2012, 20:05 GMT)

Given the conditions it's a no-brainer to leave Lyon out. Also don't overbowl anyone because there are 2 more tests and no Harris yet. @Hammond, Lyon won't be disappointed because it was Watto's absence that was decisive, otherwise he was sure to play. Send the Saffers in if we win the toss. Pup can fill in and break up the pace attack if needed (no more than 10 overs out of 90). The alternative is to try and get something out of Hussey and Quiney and all you'll get there is taking the pressure off the Saffers.

Posted by Rally_Windies on (November 8, 2012, 18:40 GMT)

3 pacers and a spinner ? is Warne or Mc Gill coming out of retirement ?

seriously, Clarke's spinners are good enough to be used and play 4 pacers ....

Auz spinners are just not good enough to be on any test team....

Posted by HARCOURT_CUMBERBACH on (November 8, 2012, 12:25 GMT)

@Hammond, sorry missed the little sting in the tail of your comment. "settled South Africa". Yes they always look settled, right up till the time they choke.

Posted by HARCOURT_CUMBERBACH on (November 8, 2012, 12:21 GMT)

@ Hammond, yes I do see your point. But i guess in a way simply defining Lyon as our premier spinner highlights the problem. If he were the pinnacle of a competitive bunch of tweakers pressing for higher honours you could feel more comfortable in his selection. I also understand that this is a situation not of his doing, we have made a terrible hash of fostering the best from our meagre spinning stocks. But really is a plodding spinner a better option than an attacking pace bowler? Even on a track that might help?

Posted by Clan_McLachlan on (November 8, 2012, 11:54 GMT)

They're looking for a way to squeeze in Starc, so that they can target Smith with a lefty.

Posted by R_U_4_REAL_NICK on (November 8, 2012, 11:13 GMT)

IMO, a lead-spinner is a MUST for test cricket. Even if a pitch doesn't offer much/any assistance, a good spinner can change things around more by taking the pace off the ball. You need 20 wickets to win a test match. So what if Aus. are without any Warnes/Muralitharans at the moment! Gives guys like Lyon/Hauritz a good run. Unless Clarke himself is willing to bowl a lot more...

Posted by sachin_equal_to_bradman on (November 8, 2012, 11:07 GMT)

Am from india.But am a bit excited about this aussie pace battery supply.Yes SA's Pace attack is a proven one but this is a chance for aussie quickies to show the world that they can also be considered equal to SA pace attack(With the exception of styen).Aussies would be well served with all pace attack since i don think LYON can do match winning contributions.LYON is more of a supporting bowler

Posted by Marcio on (November 8, 2012, 10:41 GMT)

Playing 4 quicks is like playing Russian roulette: gambling that they win the toss. If they lose the toss and have to bowl last, then the spinner will be needed. But if they bowl first (i.e. win the toss), 4 quicks will give AUS a solid advantage, and the spinner may not be needed.

Posted by HatsforBats on (November 8, 2012, 10:36 GMT)

I really have no idea where all the criticism of Lyon stems from. He's taken 40 odd wickets at under 30 from a dozen tests! He's only 24 and he shows good control with nice shape, what exactly is the problem? Barring a green top and 5 day forecast of 90% humidity and cloud cover Lyon will be playing.

Posted by DickCam on (November 8, 2012, 10:07 GMT)

Starc is the form quick and offers so much more than any of the other bowlers. If Starc wasn't from NSW he'd be a shoe in.

Posted by satish619chandar on (November 8, 2012, 10:01 GMT)

May be, Clarke can play the all rounder role which Watson did as fourth seamer by playing the spinner and drop the spinner to add the fourth pacer. It makes the things easy of having Lyon, the main spinner who not as good as Clarke.

Posted by Hammond on (November 8, 2012, 10:00 GMT)

@HARCOURT_CUMBERBACH- actually my point was that Kevin Mitchell said, and I quote "We'll probably get a bit of deterioration with some cracking and then the footmarks will dust up for the spinners." Why would you leave your "premiere" spinner out and what would that do to his confidence? Maybe MC is just missing Watto's medium pace option maybe? Australia appear to be all over the place, unlike settled South Africa.

Posted by HARCOURT_CUMBERBACH on (November 8, 2012, 9:46 GMT)

Well HAMMOND Playing four quick would be dumb if the spinner you left out was a match winner, Warne, Macgil, O'Reilly etc. Leaving Lyon in the team would make him a "mystery spinner"....."mystery being why was he picked?"

Posted by Hammond on (November 8, 2012, 9:26 GMT)

MC- play all quicks when the curator is saying the pitch will take spin? Real smart. Scared that one or more of the bowlers will be ineffective hey?? Maybe you are right.

Posted by   on (November 8, 2012, 8:37 GMT)

lyon is the worst bowler in australia presently yet he is in the team dont know on what basis !! but better spinners than him like steve o keefe,hauritz and xavier doherty are not even being considered !!

Posted by HARCOURT_CUMBERBACH on (November 8, 2012, 8:01 GMT)

Go for four QUICKS!!! Watching the Windies on FOX classic matches got the blood boiling. Also I am afraid Lyon is only a plodder when not in "super hot form" and even then he is only slightly above average.

Posted by Chark_attack on (November 8, 2012, 7:27 GMT)

@gilly4ever who cares what their form has been in the shorter forms of the game ? last time i looked this was a test match not a 20/20 seriously choose stats that are even somwat related to the game next time and besids according to the ICC ratings hilfy is our best bowler

Posted by takenaback on (November 8, 2012, 6:52 GMT)

it's a pity Lyon doesn't have another bow to his string. If he was a very good batsmen as well the problem would be solved but would one really say he is a wicket taker? NO. I think they should go in with four quicks and they are all wicket taking bowlers. I can already hear criticism of this policy but you have to have a decent spinner and until we do his workload should be shared among others including Clarke. Not many people would say it but Clarke is a much better spinner than Lyon.

Posted by   on (November 8, 2012, 6:35 GMT)

I'm not really that sure it matters with an early season wicket, but if its a flattish track then Lyon has to play, particularly without Watto in the team.

Posted by peeeeet on (November 8, 2012, 6:30 GMT)

A bad idea to not have a spinner. Australia's recent history when dropping a spinner is not great, and the only part time option is Clarke himself which would increase his workload too much. But it's probably Clarke just trying to give us something more to talk about and I don't think he will leave out Lyon.

Posted by Ozcricketwriter on (November 8, 2012, 4:58 GMT)

Hilfy is in dubious form of late, averaging only mid 20s in T20 and ODIs in the past 6 months, while Starc has been in supreme form, averaging in the teens in T20 and ODIs in the same time period. Lyon, though, is in shocking form, averaging in the 50s in all cricket since the last test was played. While Hilfy is probably lucky that better bowlers weren't in the squad, he is clearly miles above Lyon in terms of form. It should be Hilfy vs Lyon for the final spot - unless there is a concern about Starc's health, as apparently he is currently underweight.

Posted by HatsforBats on (November 8, 2012, 4:43 GMT)

I highly doubt Aus will go with 4 quicks, though if the weather permits I'd love to see it. Starc offers such variation and is handy with the bat too but he's undercooked and would have to seriously outperform hilf in the nets to get a spot.

Posted by Meety on (November 8, 2012, 3:41 GMT)

IF - both Starc & Hilfy had been in reasonably good red-ball form, it would be an option (although IMO high risk). I've said I have a preference for Starc to play IF Lyon plays as well. That said I think Hilfy is more likely to be a strong contributor to the Test as I think Starc is not quite ready. Starc has admitted to struggling with red ball against QLD. I say this as I believe as the article has more or less said that Siddle is 100% certain to play & Patto is about 99.9% certain!

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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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