Ponting considers changes for first final
Australia will discuss bringing Brad Hogg and Shane Watson into a revamped team for the first CB Series final against England at the MCG on Friday. Hogg, who has played only one game in the tournament, could be an asset on a pitch expected to be slow and the allrounder Watson might be needed instead of Cameron White, who has struggled with his bowling.
Ricky Ponting said he would analyse the wicket again on Friday before deciding on his line-up to take on an England outfit that has lost its captain Michael Vaughan to a hamstring injury. Australia have played without a specialist spinner for most of the tournament and have relied on Andrew Symonds, Michael Clarke and White to provide useful spells.
However, Symonds' biceps injury, which he suffered last Friday, has exposed the slow-bowling stocks and increased Hogg's chances of appearing at the MCG. "The last few games where we haven't taken wickets with the new ball early on, it would have been nice to have that quality spinner through the middle of the innings," Ponting told AAP.
"They're the things we have to weigh up overnight and take the conditions into account in the morning. If 'Hoggy' was to play, it would probably be for a fast bowler." Mitchell Johnson looms as the likely man to miss out in a squad that includes Brett Lee, Glenn McGrath and Nathan Bracken.
Hogg's only chance in the preliminary stages came in the Australia Day victory over England when he picked up 2 for 16 in 6.3 overs. His lack of game time forced the national selectors to release him from the squad so he could bowl in one-day matches for Western Australia.
Ponting said if Hogg was brought into the starting side Watson would probably join him. Watson, who has suffered severe hamstring injuries during the season, would offer another fast-bowling option after impressing the selectors in his first-class comeback last week.
However, Ponting said both Watson and White could appear in the same side. "They can because Watson can do a job with the ball as one of our specialist fast bowlers," Ponting said. "His record over the last couple of years with the ball has been very, very good. The thing that Shane gives us, and also Cameron to a certain degree, is a lot of flexibility with their all-round skills, so there's no reason why they can't play in the one side."
Duncan Fletcher, the England coach, has said Australia will be under pressure in the finals, but Ponting was confident his side would produce "our best stuff" after tapering their training program. "They're just trying to take a bit of the pressure off themselves and turn it on to us," Ponting said of England. "But we're pretty happy with the way things are going."