The Ashes 2009 June 30, 2009

Australia aim to unravel Cardiff confusion

Cricinfo staff

Australia are considering sending a scout to Cardiff for a reconnaissance mission to check out the pitch being prepared for the first Test, which starts next Wednesday. Reports of a raging turner at Sophia Gardens have died down recently and the Australians are keen to get an idea of the surface before their second warm-up game begins.

"We've been talking about trying to send someone down to Cardiff this week so we can have a look at what the wicket preparation looks like," Ricky Ponting told the Australian. "That way we can get it into our own minds a little bit earlier as to what to expect. Since we've been here we've heard lots of stories about how dry it's going to be and how much it's going to spin.

"There was even talk a month ago about the Test not going ahead there because of problems with the pitch. But we had a closer look at some stats last week and found that something like only 14 of the 69 wickets taken there is the last three county matches have been taken with spin."

Australia's only specialist spinner in the touring party, Nathan Hauritz, struggled against Sussex and finished with match figures of 1 for 158. The selectors will consider a four-man pace attack if the Cardiff pitch looks suitable, although Ponting believes Sophia Gardens was in part selected to open the series because of Australia's lack of a top-class Test spinner.

"Historically, Cardiff has been one wicket around the country that has spun," Ponting said. "It's been one of the driest wickets in England. They know that we haven't got Warne anymore. They know that the spin side of Australian cricket at the moment is probably not what it used to be. They've probably got a bigger advantage there than anywhere else in the country."

The Australians hope to learn more about their likely attack following their match against England Lions, beginning on Wednesday in Worcester. While Hauritz's Test spot is uncertain, England must decide whether to play one or two spinners. Graeme Swann has the front-running and their 16-man training squad also includes Monty Panesar and the legspinner Adil Rashid, who Ponting described as "pretty handy".