Hauritz spins into serious contention
Australia's spin cycle has washed up another surprise with Nathan Hauritz almost certain to play his first Test in four years despite being considered not good enough for New South Wales last week. Jason Krejza will be given until the morning of Friday's second match against New Zealand to prove his fitness after hurting his ankle on Wednesday, but the captain Ricky Ponting is preparing for an attack featuring Hauritz.
"Jason is still going to remain our No. 1 choice of spinner with 12 wickets on debut and obviously I understand how shattered he is at the moment," Ponting said. "We'll keep our fingers crossed and hope he comes up, but at the moment we think that it's likely that Hauritz will play ahead of him."
It is fair to say Hauritz was surprised by the late call-up. He was left out of New South Wales' Sheffield Shield side last week and had already been told he was the likely twelfth man for their four-day game against Tasmania starting next Tuesday.
But the conveyor-belt carrying Australian spinners has been moving so rapidly that no first-class slow bowler, even those on the fringes of their state sides, can write off the possibility of an international outing. If he plays, Hauritz will be the sixth specialist used by Australia in Tests this year.
Ponting conceded that Hauritz's figures - he has six Sheffield Shield wickets at 40.66 this season - "don't look that flash" but said he was the best option available. His only previous Test appearance came in Mumbai in 2004 and he has found it hard to find regular state action, let alone international call-ups, since then.
But in a match where New Zealand are considering two specialist spinners, Australia were adamant they needed at least one. After batsmen from both sides had trouble applying themselves on the green-tinged Gabba pitch last week, where Australia wrapped up a comfortable win, the bowlers know their task will be infinitely tougher on the flat Adelaide surface.
Aside from Jamie How's 170 in the tour match in Sydney, the New Zealand top order has struggled significantly. However, the captain Daniel Vettori said they would not be aiming to belt their way back into form by focusing on Hauritz, even though he failed to pick up a wicket for New South Wales in the warm-up game.
"I don't think you target him. We know that he's going to have a big role to play because it's the Adelaide Oval so spin bowlers do have a lot of work," Vettori said. "We've just got to pretty much do what we did in our first game in New South Wales … sit on him, get a feel for him, because a lot of our guys have only faced him once before."
Vettori said his own workload would "increase exponentially" on an Adelaide pitch not expected to offer the seamers much assistance. The offspinner Jeetan Patel is a chance to play and Vettori is also keen to make use of the opening batsman Aaron Redmond, whose legspin has brought him 96 first-class wickets.
To squeeze Patel into the line-up New Zealand would need to make a tough call to drop one of their fast men: Iain O'Brien, Tim Southee or Chris Martin. The bowlers face a nervous wait until the morning of the match, unlike Australia's Stuart Clark, who has been assured he will play ahead of Peter Siddle.
Earlier this year Clark was one of the first selected in Australia's side but he has been under increased pressure and struggled on the tour of India, where he collected two wickets and was dropped for the fourth Test. Clark bounced back to be one of Australia's best at the Gabba with six wickets, but his record at Adelaide is not so strong: in his two Tests here he has four victims at 56.50.
"If Stuart Clark is bowling at his best it doesn't really matter what the surface is," Ponting said. "I'm sure he'd like to bowl at the Gabba every week, most bowlers would.
"He's not going to be the guy that's going to run in and blast guys out. He's going to be the guy that's going to have to work hard and chip away and bowl lots of good overs and try and put pressure on guys in different ways. He's certainly got a role to play in our team and with the confidence behind him from last week I'm sure he can do that role on any surface."
Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo