Bollinger gives selectors Boxing Day headache
Chris Gayle said before the Adelaide Test that he didn't know who Doug Bollinger was but two games later he's convinced the left-armer is the best bowler in Australia's attack. Bollinger's eight-wicket match at the WACA could give Australia's selectors a tough decision ahead of the Boxing Day Test against Pakistan, if Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus continue to recover well from their injuries.
Over the past year Australia have built their attack around the pace trio of Mitchell Johnson, Siddle and Hilfenhaus, with Bollinger as their back-up. He was unlucky not to be named Man of the Match in Perth, where he bowled with speed, aggression and consistency, and collected 5 for 70 in the first innings and 3 for 71 in the second.
He stepped into the side when the impressive Hilfenhaus was left out in Adelaide due to knee tendonitis and finished the series with 13 wickets and a growing cult status. When Gayle was asked who was the toughest to face in Australia's attack, he nominated the man who dismissed him twice in the past two Tests.
"They're all good bowlers, but facing Bollinger, definitely he's more capable," Gayle said. "He hit good areas at good pace, so he'd be the most stand-out one for me."
If either Hilfenhaus or Siddle can't play in Melbourne, Bollinger is a certainty to keep his place. However, Hilfenhaus took four wickets in a club game on the weekend and Siddle is in line to come back from a hamstring strain in Victoria's FR Cup fixture on Wednesday. Ricky Ponting said if all four fast men were fit the selectors would have a tough call.
"[Bollinger] is certainly bowling really well at the moment, there's no doubt about that," Ponting said. "Since he's come back into the group, which is in India for those one-day games, he hasn't put a foot wrong. He's probably unlucky not to be Man of the Match out here [in Perth].
"At the moment he's loving the contest, he's loving the chance to open the bowling. He's got a bit of movement with the new ball and the old ball, which is a really good sign for us, particularly when you think of the conditions that we've got coming up in the next couple of games, Melbourne and Sydney.
"He hasn't put a foot wrong. Once Siddle and Hilfenhaus come back there's going to be a major decision to be made there from the selectors about which way they go, but Doug's done everything within his powers to keep himself in the side, there's no doubt about that."
Australia's fans would certainly appreciate it if the selectors retained Bollinger. The fast man's aggressive attitude and unique character have made him a crowd favourite in the mould of Merv Hughes, and Bollinger said he'd love the chance to take the field on Australian cricket's biggest stage.
"It would be the ultimate with 90,000 people there," Bollinger said. "The whole aspect of the Boxing Day Test is just amazing and it would mean a lot to me."
Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo