Australia v New Zealand, 1st Test, Brisbane November 19, 2008

Symonds recalled as Watson left to fight with Krejza


Andrew Symonds is back after missing the India series © AFP
 

Andrew Symonds' Test exile is officially over after Ricky Ponting confirmed the allrounder would play in Thursday's first Test against New Zealand. Symonds was suspended following his fishing trip in Darwin before the one-day series against Bangladesh in August, but he has convinced himself, Cricket Australia and his team-mates that he is ready to resume the No. 6 spot.

Australia's only remaining choice is whether to pick another allrounder in Shane Watson or the offspinner Jason Krejza on a pitch that will seam in the damp and humid conditions. The wicket is under-prepared - Matthew Hayden called it "spicy" - but if the predicted wet weather stays away Krejza will hold his spot. The call is a difficult one for Watson, who performed reasonably well with both disciplines in India, but Symonds' experience as a senior player meant he came in as soon as he was deemed ready.

"It was important that we got him back into our team," Ponting said. "Being a senior member of our team and a very successful member before he went out of it, it almost becomes an injury-type replacement. He's been out for a couple of months. He's fit and ready to go and deserves his spot back in the side."

Despite Symonds having to go away and work out what he was doing wrong by the team, Ponting said he did not want the allrounder to change his personality. With the speed of Symonds' return - and his form - it is easy to wonder what the point of the exercise was if the squad is happy for him to be the same old Symo.

"I don't expect him to be the model citizen when he comes back into the side, I expect him to be the Andrew Symonds of old," Ponting said. "That's what we all love about him. We all love his personality and the way he is around the team."

Symonds has collected only 70 runs in three Sheffield Shield games for Queensland but Ponting has been impressed with his work in the nets this week and retains faith in his "big-game" qualities. Ponting hoped for more of the version of Symonds that scored 777 runs in his nine previous Tests, instead of the one that has struggled since undergoing psychological sessions as part of his rehabilitation.

"He does add a lot to your team," Ponting said. "He adds that X-factor, he adds that great presence in the field. He can bowl you some medium pace and offspin, so with that sort of cricketer in the line-up, so far as balance goes, it is excellent."

Finding the right line-up was one of Australia's regular dilemmas in India, but that mostly surrounded trying to fit in the spin of Cameron White. Turn is not going to be much of a factor in this game, which is a shame for the New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori.

They will look at using Grant Elliott as a batsman at No. 7, a move which would leave the 19-year-old Tim Southee as 12th man. "We're trying not to bring in the fact that Grant bowls a little bit," Vettori said. "We want the best batsman at that position. The guy who comes in will bat at No. 7 and Grant is more accustomed to that than Peter Fulton."

Ponting and Andrew Hilditch, the chairman of selectors, decided on the 12 after looking at the pitch on Wednesday morning, with the fast bowler Peter Siddle being cut from the squad. Stuart Clark will return after missing the Nagpur Test and should enjoy the green surface that has been kept moist by rain since the weekend.

Krejza grabbed 12 wickets on debut in Nagpur last week while Ponting said Watson was the best fast bowler on the tour. "They'll be desperately unlucky, whoever misses out," Ponting said. Having four fast bowlers in the outfit is a concern for Ponting, whose side is regularly under over-rate pressure.

Ponting has been criticised for his decision-making in Nagpur, where he called on part-time bowlers to lift the speed of the game, and the issue is nagging at him. "I, and our team, have been as guilty as anybody in being behind in our overs and making it not as good a spectacle as it could be," he said. "I have stayed away all week from talking to the team about the over-rates. If they don't understand it now as a result of what's been in the papers and spoken about for the last week, they never will."

While Australia worry, New Zealand have no concerns. "We've never had a problem with over-rates," Vettori said. "We have problems with being too fast and have to slow ourselves down. I'll try not to bowl myself too often in this game."

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo

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