Bracken hunts for Test recall
Nathan Bracken hopes to fend off increasing competition and gain a recall to Australia's Test side, but knows that no matter what he does in the one-day arena it's his first-class results that count. Bracken is ranked sixth in the world for one-day bowling - and was as high as second last year - yet can't nudge into the longer form for Australia. He has not played a Test since December 2005.
Bracken's Pura Cup form is solid, with 21 wickets at 20.71 for New South Wales so far, and he has worked on his fitness to increase his endurance. But his new-ball partner Doug Bollinger, yet another left-armer, is outbowling him at New South Wales with more than double the wickets; he has 44 at 14.02, and he impressed for Australia A in their preseason tour of Pakistan. Queensland's Ashley Noffke also has a better tally and average with 44 wickets at 17.56, including a match against the touring Sri Lankans in October, and he is clearly in the selectors' thoughts after recent call-ups for internationals in the shorter forms.
Mitchell Johnson, a fellow left-armer, is way ahead of Bracken in the pecking order at the moment, having secured his Test place for now, with fair showings in the recent Test series against Sri Lanka and India. Shaun Tait was also in front, called up to the Perth Test as the fourth quick bowler, but has slipped off the radar for now after announcing a break from cricket.
"In Australia at the moment it's whoever is performing well at the right time," said Bracken. "A lot of guys are putting their hands up consistently. Ashley Noffke got the opportunity in Brisbane, he's been putting his hand up for the whole season and Doug Bollinger's in the same boat and there's a few other guys in other states.
"I'm just trying to pull my weight in one-day cricket. I've been told that four-day cricket results relate to Test cricket so I have to perform well [at state level], and one-day cricket results reflect on one-day cricket, so for me it's perform well here. If that leads to something more then that's great and if it doesn't I still get to play one-day cricket for my country."
His next one-day appearance will be on Friday against Sri Lanka in Sydney, where he should be joined by Stuart Clark who is back after missing Sunday's opener against India for personal reasons. Clark hasn't played an ODI since September, but Australia called him back to replace Tait, and now he should get the call-up with Brett Lee expected to be rested.
Bracken backed the rotation policy, while acknowledging it was hard for players to miss out. Everyone wants to play every game for their country," he said. "Nobody puts their hand up and says 'I'm a bit tired, I want a rest'. They all want a go, but you've got to understand the situation."
Matthew Hayden will return from a hamstring problem to boost his side with his batting but also fielding-wise. "It will make a big impact having Matthew back into the team for no other reason than he can get into first slip and get some normality back to our slips cordon," Tim Nielsen, Australia's coach, told The Age. "I think the balance of the slips cordon has been upset a little with different roles for different blokes regularly and Hayden missing out."
Australia will also hope that the third CB Series match isn't, like the first two, washed out.