Ashes / News

Fast bowling cover replaces twin spin option

Tait and Johnson return for Adelaide

Peter English

November 28, 2006

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Glenn McGrath stood tall at Brisbane, but he was also upset by a minor heel injury © Getty Images
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Australia have thrown out the possibility of using two spinners and asked for fast-bowling reinforcements as they search for a 2-0 Ashes lead in Adelaide from Friday. The national selectors met over two days to consider their options following Shane Watson's second consecutive withdrawal with a hamstring injury and Shaun Tait joined Mitchell Johnson in the 13-man squad.

Tait was part of the outfit before leaving Brisbane ahead of the first Test, which Australia won by 277 runs at the Gabba, and Johnson was released for Pura Cup duty when a seam attack of Brett Lee, Glenn McGrath and Stuart Clark was preferred. McGrath and Clark excelled with seven wickets each, but the expanded squad indicates the selectors are concerned with McGrath's bruised heel.

McGrath had a pain-killing injection in his left foot on Sunday and returned 1 for 53 to follow his 6 for 50 that rocked England's first innings. Lee was the most disappointing of the trio, but he is unlikely to be overlooked after one below-par performance and the option of a five-man frontline attack disappeared with Watson's slow recovery.

Shane Warne is currently irreplaceable, especially on a surface in which he has 25 wickets from his past four Tests, and only an injury or doubts over fitness can realistically provide an opening for Tait or Johnson. Stuart MacGill tipped yesterday that he would miss the squad and his hunch was correct.

"The possibility of using two specialist spinners continues to be discussed," Andrew Hilditch, the chairman of selectors, said. "That decision is made more difficult while Watson is unfit, but it will be reviewed depending on the particular conditions we will face at each venue." There is a chance Watson and MacGill could be required in Perth for the third game following the WACA's transformation from a fast-bowling haven to a batsman-dominated arena.

Michael Clarke retained his spot at No. 6 following his 56 in the first innings at Brisbane and his left-arm spin will be a handy asset during the second Test. "I've been ultra-impressed with the way Clarke's gone about his cricket over the last 12 to 18 months," Ricky Ponting said after the victory. "He's extremely hungry and he's trained hard and he's worked on his technique for the longer form of the game. It's great to see him play well."

Australia squad Justin Langer, Matthew Hayden, Ricky Ponting (capt), Damien Martyn, Michael Hussey, Michael Clarke, Adam Gilchrist (wk), Shane Warne, Brett Lee, Stuart Clark, Glenn McGrath, Mitchell Johnson, Shaun Tait.

Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo

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