England v Australia, 3rd Test, Edgbaston July 28, 2009

Australia's Clark conundrum

Mitchell Johnson, it seems, has retained the faith of Ricky Ponting, all but ensuring that the tourists must look elsewhere within their line-up if they are to accommodate the ever-reliable Stuart Clark for the third Test
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Ten days of speculation, debate and general gum-flapping over Mitchell Johnson's selection prospects could amount to nothing. The embattled paceman is favoured to retain his place in the side for the third Test at Edgbaston, increasing the likelihood that the tourists will field a line-up similar, if not identical, to that which slumped to a 115-run defeat at Lord's last week.

With Australia set to gamble on Johnson's wicket-taking potential, Stuart Clark looms as the most contentious selection issue ahead of the coin toss on Thursday. Australia have desperately missed Clark's unerring accuracy and steady temperament in the first two Ashes Tests, and the veteran paceman advanced his case for selection at Edgbaston with a solid return of 4 for 74 from 23 overs in the three-day tour match against Northamptonshire.

Given the contrasting nature of Johnson's performance at Wantage Road (1 for 107 from 18.1 overs), many assumed Clark would enter the starting XI for the third Test in a straight-swap for the errant left-hander. But Johnson, it seems, has retained the faith of Ricky Ponting and Jamie Cox, Australia's on-duty selector, all but ensuring that the tourists must look elsewhere within their line-up if they are to accommodate Clark.

Of all the Australia bowlers in this series, Peter Siddle has performed the most modestly, and, like Johnson, has been unable to settle upon a consistent line. Siddle, though, has many influential supporters in the Australian hierarchy - not least Ponting and Tim Nielsen - who covet the raw aggression and intimidation he brings to the attack. He will be difficult to dislodge, even if raw figures (seven wickets at 44.57) suggest he is the most likely to make way.

"I thought Stuart bowled particularly well last week at Northants," Ponting said. " Siddle showed some good improvement and good signs down in Northampton as well. As far as a pecking order is concerned, you'll work that out tomorrow when we pick our XI."

Ben Hilfenhaus is presumably secure, given his nine wickets and general mastery of outswing, but the fate of the man who sits atop the series wicket-taking list alongside him, Nathan Hauritz, is less certain. If current weather forecasts prove accurate, and rain severely disrupts proceedings from Thursday, an attritional spinner armed with a greasy ball would be an unlikely candidate to provide Australia with the wicket-taking impetus needed to force their way back into this series.

"We've checked the stats for county games this season and spinners are averaging about 60 or 70 per wicket," Ponting told the Australian on Monday. "The numbers aren't compelling."

Ponting revised his position on spin bowlers on Wednesday, noting with surprise the dryness of the Edgbaston pitch and predicting that both sides would play at least one slow bowler each. Whether Ponting feels Marcus North fits the job description, as he did for the first two Tests in South Africa, will remain a mystery until the coin toss.

Should Hauritz be omitted, the murmurs surrounding North's place in the XI would almost certainly cease. The strong form of Shane Watson and Andrew McDonald at Wantage Road prompted discussion as to whether North's position at No. 6 could be under threat, but his part-time spin - not to mention his unbeaten 125 in Cardiff - would provide Ponting with variation and over-rate protection at Edgbaston.

Of course, there remains the very real possibility that Australia ignore the aforementioned selection permutations and plough on with the same attack from Lord's and Cardiff. That would represent either a tremendous gamble or complete obstinacy, depending on your viewpoint, after Australia's lacklustre performance in the second Test, and another backhander to the dependable Clark.

Alex Brown is deputy editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Oldmanmartin on July 30, 2009, 11:39 GMT

    I can understand why Australia won't drop Johnson. He has a great record, provides variety, might hit form at any moment and scores important runs. But Clark is not far off McGrath quality and should come in, at the expense of Siddle.

    Until Johnson returns to form Oz need a fifth genuine bowler, so Watson has to come in. I wouldn't open with him and I wouldn't move Hussey when in moderate form, so I'd move North up to open, move Clarke up to 5 and slot Watson in at 6.

  • finchy_da_man on July 30, 2009, 7:40 GMT

    Everybody knows Mitchell Johnson will not get dropped, everybody knows Peter Siddle will not get dropped. Ben Hilfenhaus is by far and away the best of the bowlers in the series including English players, and would be taking 6 and 7 wicket hauls if the other bowlers could keep it tight. Mcdonald in, Hauritz out. Harsh I know but he would work well with hilfy. Hughes out, Watson in is a good move. Watson is a good all rounder who could be a breath of fresh air. But I would have preffered watson in, North out.

  • CiMP on July 30, 2009, 2:42 GMT

    Given the weather predictions this Test, this may be effctively a 3 day match. Giving Mitchell Johnson a break to sort out his strategies is the best way out. Clark can fill in very well because MJ is not as fearsome in this series as he was expected to be. If Aus go by the groundsman's prediction they may drop Hauritz and retain MJ.

  • SpinMeOut on July 30, 2009, 1:59 GMT

    To GobbleUpCricket who wrote about Stuart Clark, "Indians and SAFs handled him pretty comfortably" … Stuart Clark has played 6 matches against India for 16 wickets from 556 runs averaging 34.75. This includes 3 draws at Adelaide, Bangalore and Delhi … non Seamer wickets, dead, batting wickets. Ignoring those 3 games, Stuart Clark's figures against India would be 14 wickets from 276 runs averaging 19.71 and against South Africa 3 games 20 wickets, 317 runs, 15.86 average. So, I'm not sure what games of cricket you have been watching dear sir. Probably, those same games that Ponting and the Australian selectors watched, which the rest of us missed. If Stuart Clark is again overlooked for the 3rd test and no reason is given for his ommission, then I can no longer be a passionate supporter of Australian cricket.

  • kort on July 29, 2009, 23:43 GMT

    As an Australian I am amazed at Ponting's STUPIDITY in keeping Johnson. The guy is clearly out of form and confidence. Clark seems to have his groove back but he seems destined to carry the drinks - what a waste. I recall reading that an idiot is someone who does the same thing over and over again yet expects a different result. I guess we all know what Ponting and the selectors are.

  • adam_clone on July 29, 2009, 22:28 GMT

    Its only fair to give MJ many more chances to prove. And Clark and Watson in the playing 11 ? No way !!! Maybe they should try a batting change and bring in Manou to open in place of Katich. Think I'm crazy to be suggesting so ? Not really. I'm only an English supporter :)

  • Behind_the_bowlers_arm on July 29, 2009, 21:45 GMT

    Its 2005 all over again where Hussey wasnt selected and the dismal Gillespie was picked endlessly. To not pick Stuart Clark would be an unbelievable decision. Johnson is shot and thats it and all the talk of retaining the confidence of the coach & captain is desperate wishful thinking. And the decision to leave alternative openers (Jacques, Rogers) and alternative batsmen (particularly Hodge) at home is comng home to roost. Hilditch ..... terrible batsman , worse selector ..... BUT he married well AND he's from NSW.

  • srivatsan on July 29, 2009, 18:44 GMT

    I've not seen a bowler go consistently above 6 an over in tests (not even in county/Pura cup). Johnson's fundamentals are wrong.. He needs 2-3 months of training from the likes of Mcgrath and Gillespie.

    Yes Clark won't bring in storm of wickets but much neater bowler than Johnson. Bowls wicket to wicket. Rarely goes above 4 an over. Does not bowl ackwardly outside the legs or short outside off.

  • srivatsan on July 29, 2009, 18:27 GMT

    From day one Johnson has been an overrated bowler. Aussies hold him high as if he is Mcgrath. He's rubbish. The only reason I can see players like Krejza and Clark not playing is favouritism.

    Once you come up with such selection issues it's hard to win series. My prediction 3-0 England (Make it 4-0 if it does not rain in Edgbaston R.I.P).

  • boonboon on July 29, 2009, 18:17 GMT

    I'm really up in the air about what the side should be for this test but I think we need some changes. We need more bowling strength but I want Johnson to keep his place cause he is our future attack leader (and current for that matter) , i think clark shold come in for Siddle as eng conditions suit him better. The only problem I have is that McDOnald deserves a place in this team , he was the incumbent at the start of the series and has shown good form with bat and ball - im just not sure where to put him

  • Oldmanmartin on July 30, 2009, 11:39 GMT

    I can understand why Australia won't drop Johnson. He has a great record, provides variety, might hit form at any moment and scores important runs. But Clark is not far off McGrath quality and should come in, at the expense of Siddle.

    Until Johnson returns to form Oz need a fifth genuine bowler, so Watson has to come in. I wouldn't open with him and I wouldn't move Hussey when in moderate form, so I'd move North up to open, move Clarke up to 5 and slot Watson in at 6.

  • finchy_da_man on July 30, 2009, 7:40 GMT

    Everybody knows Mitchell Johnson will not get dropped, everybody knows Peter Siddle will not get dropped. Ben Hilfenhaus is by far and away the best of the bowlers in the series including English players, and would be taking 6 and 7 wicket hauls if the other bowlers could keep it tight. Mcdonald in, Hauritz out. Harsh I know but he would work well with hilfy. Hughes out, Watson in is a good move. Watson is a good all rounder who could be a breath of fresh air. But I would have preffered watson in, North out.

  • CiMP on July 30, 2009, 2:42 GMT

    Given the weather predictions this Test, this may be effctively a 3 day match. Giving Mitchell Johnson a break to sort out his strategies is the best way out. Clark can fill in very well because MJ is not as fearsome in this series as he was expected to be. If Aus go by the groundsman's prediction they may drop Hauritz and retain MJ.

  • SpinMeOut on July 30, 2009, 1:59 GMT

    To GobbleUpCricket who wrote about Stuart Clark, "Indians and SAFs handled him pretty comfortably" … Stuart Clark has played 6 matches against India for 16 wickets from 556 runs averaging 34.75. This includes 3 draws at Adelaide, Bangalore and Delhi … non Seamer wickets, dead, batting wickets. Ignoring those 3 games, Stuart Clark's figures against India would be 14 wickets from 276 runs averaging 19.71 and against South Africa 3 games 20 wickets, 317 runs, 15.86 average. So, I'm not sure what games of cricket you have been watching dear sir. Probably, those same games that Ponting and the Australian selectors watched, which the rest of us missed. If Stuart Clark is again overlooked for the 3rd test and no reason is given for his ommission, then I can no longer be a passionate supporter of Australian cricket.

  • kort on July 29, 2009, 23:43 GMT

    As an Australian I am amazed at Ponting's STUPIDITY in keeping Johnson. The guy is clearly out of form and confidence. Clark seems to have his groove back but he seems destined to carry the drinks - what a waste. I recall reading that an idiot is someone who does the same thing over and over again yet expects a different result. I guess we all know what Ponting and the selectors are.

  • adam_clone on July 29, 2009, 22:28 GMT

    Its only fair to give MJ many more chances to prove. And Clark and Watson in the playing 11 ? No way !!! Maybe they should try a batting change and bring in Manou to open in place of Katich. Think I'm crazy to be suggesting so ? Not really. I'm only an English supporter :)

  • Behind_the_bowlers_arm on July 29, 2009, 21:45 GMT

    Its 2005 all over again where Hussey wasnt selected and the dismal Gillespie was picked endlessly. To not pick Stuart Clark would be an unbelievable decision. Johnson is shot and thats it and all the talk of retaining the confidence of the coach & captain is desperate wishful thinking. And the decision to leave alternative openers (Jacques, Rogers) and alternative batsmen (particularly Hodge) at home is comng home to roost. Hilditch ..... terrible batsman , worse selector ..... BUT he married well AND he's from NSW.

  • srivatsan on July 29, 2009, 18:44 GMT

    I've not seen a bowler go consistently above 6 an over in tests (not even in county/Pura cup). Johnson's fundamentals are wrong.. He needs 2-3 months of training from the likes of Mcgrath and Gillespie.

    Yes Clark won't bring in storm of wickets but much neater bowler than Johnson. Bowls wicket to wicket. Rarely goes above 4 an over. Does not bowl ackwardly outside the legs or short outside off.

  • srivatsan on July 29, 2009, 18:27 GMT

    From day one Johnson has been an overrated bowler. Aussies hold him high as if he is Mcgrath. He's rubbish. The only reason I can see players like Krejza and Clark not playing is favouritism.

    Once you come up with such selection issues it's hard to win series. My prediction 3-0 England (Make it 4-0 if it does not rain in Edgbaston R.I.P).

  • boonboon on July 29, 2009, 18:17 GMT

    I'm really up in the air about what the side should be for this test but I think we need some changes. We need more bowling strength but I want Johnson to keep his place cause he is our future attack leader (and current for that matter) , i think clark shold come in for Siddle as eng conditions suit him better. The only problem I have is that McDOnald deserves a place in this team , he was the incumbent at the start of the series and has shown good form with bat and ball - im just not sure where to put him

  • bumbles11 on July 29, 2009, 15:36 GMT

    England will beat the aussies.....but they will be helped massively by the aussie selectors! Clark was the leading ashes wicket taker in 06/07 and is still ranked 4th in the world....even though he hasn't played much in the last 12 months! I'm sure I speak for every English supporter and hope they don't pick him, he knows English conditions, is experienced and would be a real handful.

    Same goes for Rogers or Jacques...all good players who have done well in state and county cricket but have been over-looked for Hughes. Very odd.....maybe the ECB are paying Hildreth a bonus?

  • pietrojackson on July 29, 2009, 15:31 GMT

    If Clark's fit he should be in - the #1 choice for English conditions. Don't see how getting smacked around for 6 an over again is going to help MJ's development. With Johnson out then North has to keep his place for his batting. I've always liked H's offspin and this is an opp for him to keep developing - and would like to see him bowling with Clark at the other end to turn the screws on the batsmen when they're settled.

  • Rightinthekisser on July 29, 2009, 14:47 GMT

    Let's clear a few things up. Firstly, Batsmen should not be brought in to replace bowlers (as some have suggested with Watson or McDonald possibly replacing Johnson or Siddle). Australia hopefully learnt that lesson when they selected Cameron White as the main spinner in India. Secondly, three part-time spinners does not equate to one full-time spinner - it's an insult to spinners to suggest otherwise. Thirdly, keep it simple: you pick your 6 best batsmen, your 4 best bowlers and your best wicket-keeper. Winning teams to do not over-complicate things. This means Watson and McDonald should not even come into the equation. Marcus North's position should be safe after a very good unbeaten century at Cardiff and two centuries in just four tests - why the hell would Australia drop him? Hauritz must play because, along with Hilfenhaus, he's been Australia's most effective bowler and they need variation. The only potential change should be a straight swap of Clark for Johnson.

  • Graduated_Cheetah on July 29, 2009, 14:42 GMT

    I was shocked to know that Clark was not picked for playing XI at the start of series and my doubts about Aussie Bowling line-up have come true after their performance in the first 2 matches.

    Its the perfect time to replace Johnson with Clark and maybe to replace Hughes with Watson ... n thoughts of replacing Clark with Siddle are insane ...

  • dyson85 on July 29, 2009, 14:17 GMT

    I agree with a lot of whats being said here. Most of the changes being bandied around are viable options. One thing is for sure though... suggestions Marcus North should be dropped are a bit harsh. He scored his second century for the tour and played beautifully only 2 Tests ago! Johnson's been horrible, but I get a feeling he could turn it right on at some stage before 5 Tests are up. Soggy conditions and all... I'd be sticking with Hauritz - he's bowling well, leave him to it. Siddle has been disappointing, because of his less imposing track record compared to Johnson, I think he's the one that should get the chop. Either way, whether its Johnson, Hauritz or Siddle to make way, Clark has to play.

  • Dhanno on July 29, 2009, 14:14 GMT

    Fredie plays.. Slips.. Gets thrown out of last two tests.. This game is a draw due to rain.. Whole of england will be in mourning and baying for the person who decided to play Fredie when we already know there isnt going to be a result here.. Chips down.. Aussie come back Aussies win next two to take series 2-1. Wow 2005 is avenged and how so!!!

  • GobbleUpCricket on July 29, 2009, 14:08 GMT

    Here is an outsider - Indian - perspective. MJ's case is not a regular loss of form; his confidence seems to have disintegrated, which is so unAustralian, so to speak. How do you deal with that? Bring in Clark and there is sure a settled look to the attack. However, there is no edge anymore, no intimidation factor. It almost looks like, how do I put it, an ENglish attack. On the other hand, with Freddie in, the ENglish attack has an almost unEnglish edge to it. You have to sympathize with Ricky here. If MJ fires, it elevates the Aus attack somewhat.

    Lets face it. Stuart Clark is not like the demons unleashed. The Indians and SAFs handled him pretty comfortably. He may have succeeded when a bunch of all time greats softened up the opposition. Without them he is just an ordinary medium pacer. That guys is the sad truth. I suspect that is the case with Mike Hussey too.

    MJ looks like he needs some time off to sort his thinking out. There is no easy easy way out for Aus.

  • ToneMalone on July 29, 2009, 13:05 GMT

    The latest murmurs about an unchanged side are really disturbing if you're an Australian. The team needs to have a reliable pace attack so pressure can be built up on the English batsmen. This could be achieved by dropping Johnson for Clark; or by dropping the all-rounder North for Clark and decreasing the reliance on Johnson. Whichever way they juggle it, Clark needs to be in, and Johnson shouldn't be left as such a critical cog in the attack.

  • Clyde on July 29, 2009, 12:36 GMT

    You need to be able to bowl straight, and Siddle and Johnson can't, not yet and not at the moment, respectively. Something would have to click for Johnson psychologically, and you would notice that off the field as likely as on it. So, you might say you would have the option of Clark, Hilfenhaus, McDonald and Hauritz. But Australian can't win with just this lot. So Johnson has to go in too. If he comes to, Australia wins. If he doesn't, it will be a draw. Runs are not a problem for Australia, because the wicket is one of the standard modern bricks of inertia, as long as Australia's batsmen see the game this way and concentrate.

  • Whiteline on July 29, 2009, 12:33 GMT

    Australia doesn't want Harmison to play and England don't want Clark to play - go figure!

  • kym_c on July 29, 2009, 12:30 GMT

    MJ (replaced by SC) and PH (replaced by SW) to go because risking either is a luxury Australia simply do not have with only 3 tests left. Maybe a different call with a brilliant tactical captain with a killer instinct calling the on-field shots but Australia isn't up to the mark in that regard either.

  • thesubterreneans on July 29, 2009, 12:25 GMT

    is Johnson going through steve harmison syndrome? ie an unspectacular start to his career, followed by a short period of unsustainable brilliance that his talent doesn't really merit but which raises expectations to fever pitch. as impressive as Johnson was against South Africa, especially in SA, i thought he was very poor in India not long before. although he did take wickets, most seemed to be strangles down the legside or long hops slashed to point.

    speaking as an England fan, I cannot believe that Clark has not played. he doesn't look anything special and may well be the least charasmatic cricketer of recent times but he does what an international bowler should: takes good wickets cheaply while providing control and bowling to plan.

  • wolf69 on July 29, 2009, 12:25 GMT

    Why are Australia obsessed with playing only four bowlers? Why can they not play Johnson, Hilfenhouse, Siddle, Clark AND Hauritz? This means batting Haddin at 6 (which is hardly a weakness) and Johnson at 7 which is still a very strong batting lineup. To make room then you could either drop North or drop Hughes with Hussey moving up to open with Katitch. This would give a far more balanced bowling lineup without sacrificing too much in the batting department.

    I think Australia selecters still have the mentality that four bowlers are enough (and it was with Warne and Mcgrath in the team) but these legends have gone and Australia have to learn to join the rest of the pack without them.

  • D.V.C. on July 29, 2009, 11:33 GMT

    I'm with Baron Von Chickenpants. (That sound's like it should be a T-shirt slogan.)

  • D.V.C. on July 29, 2009, 9:54 GMT

    Well, If Hauritz plays then North has to go. If only because we don't need 3 part-time spinners but would be in desperate need of an additional seam bowler to cover for Johnson. I'd favour Watson given his superior batting, even if his bowling fitness means he is only good for 10-12 overs a day. You don't need any more than that from your 4th seamer. One change is a necessity though, even if the team is unchanged: Katich has to bowl more. He's been so underused it's rediculous. Give him an extended spell, for crying out loud. So far I've seen him bowl 2 wrong'uns, neither of which were picked by the batsman but that is all he has had time to bowl. He sets the batsmen up for it and then is taken out of the attack - how pointless.

  • tomjs100 on July 29, 2009, 9:21 GMT

    Siddle out, Clark in, Hauritz stays. I think Hauritz has done enough to deserve to stay, IMO, but Clark is desperately needed. I was so glad they didn't pick him at Lords, where his accuracy and the 'McGrath slope' would have been extremely dangerous. Just looking forward to the pitch at Headingley, will be a result either way up there.

  • johnverp on July 29, 2009, 9:18 GMT

    A lot of very good commentary here and I can only echo it by asking how the number 4 bowler in the world is not getting a game with the Aussies. Surely, the aim is to put your best team on the pitch every time? Haven't we learnt anything from the first two Tests? Get Clark in and give us a better chance to get rid of the deficit and win the series.

  • sydneyswan on July 29, 2009, 9:04 GMT

    It would seem very unfair to "rest" Siddle to allow Clark to play, which he must if Australia are to win. If anyone is rested it should be Johnson who has, by far, been the most inconsistent and underperforming Australian bowler so far on tour

  • Roger_Allott on July 29, 2009, 9:02 GMT

    In South Africa, Johnson was as good an all-rounder as Freddie was in 2005. But suddenly, something's gone awry with his bowling and it would be a huge gamble to include him in the XI. I would leave him to work things out with Cooley in the nets for the 3rd test, and replace him with Watson. It mystifies me that Stuart Clark was left out for the first 2 tests, so he'd definitely get a spot in my Aussie team instead of Hauritz, who would probably benefit anyway from the extra recovery time. Clarke, North & Katich can bowl the spin overs between them, in a match that seems a racing certainty to be a wash-out draw even before a ball has been bowled.

  • SpinMeOut on July 29, 2009, 8:43 GMT

    Like so many of you, I can not understand why Stuart Clark has not been playing for Australia. Clark has played 22 matches for 17 wins, 4 draws and 1 loss. Since Clark has been dropped/injured Australia has played 10 matches for 3 wins, 1 draw and 6 losses. Clark averages 22.96 and during the last England Series, he took 26 wickets and averaged 17.03. He is the tallest of our bowlers. I would still play Mitchell Johnson, he is batting well enough to keep his position. But Ponting, please don't throw Johnson the new ball. Drop Hauritz and play Clark. There will be little requirement for spin with rain predicted and Clarke, Katich and North can do this job if need be.

  • TravellingDuttons on July 29, 2009, 8:29 GMT

    Tough call for the selectors. Great to have hindsight after the 1st 2 tests. Lets not forget that Clark just came back from surgery and looked far from his metronomic self in the warm up games (in fact he was the least impressive of all the bowlers).

    MJ was rightly selected in the 2nd test (who knew he was going to have 2 bad games). Fair enough if they don't bring back Stuey for this test though....he had a good game against Northants and desreves a crack now.

    The selectors are probably still a little worried though as the warm up game last week was against an understrength 2nd division side....hardly strong opposition.

  • Ozcricketwriter on July 29, 2009, 7:49 GMT

    Australia have been reluctant to drop good players who are out of form; however they have been very keen to do so if they think that it will build character. Ricky Ponting, Matthew Hayden, Damien Martyn, Steve Waugh and many others were dropped to build character. I think that this is the situation here. Both Johnson and Hughes have had paths paved with gold so far and a spot on the sidelines would do them good. For me, it is a straight swap to drop Johnson and Hughes and bring in Stuart Clark and Watson. I would also consider dropping Siddle for McDonald, although that is more debatable. In 2005, Jason Gillespie's continued selection in spite of his horror run of form was a main reason why Australia did so badly. Let's not make the same mistake again.

  • fission_chips on July 29, 2009, 6:44 GMT

    I am completely puzzled why Clark isn't, what Beggnog said, what the Aus bowling attack is built on. I have accounted for his recent injury, but I would have had him at the TOP of my selection list for this Ashes. Like McGrath, the man is really unplayable through line and length accuracy. Personally, I am really disappointed that he is on the sidelines for this series. His wickets and economy would provide an enormous inspiration for the younger bowlers who are clearly going to have many more years to pound the Poms. I have had to wonder about his personal relationships with the rest of the team and CA since his numbers and supreme reliablility make such a strong case. Only a thought, and a sad one. I was so looking forward to my boy bringing home some bags this series, my favorite Aussie bowler.

  • Beggnog on July 29, 2009, 2:55 GMT

    If Stuart Clark is not picked for the third test, I fear that I won't watch the remainder of the Ashes. How can a proven performer - one who if he doesn't get wickets himself, at least applies pressure with a consistent line and length - be so undervalued by the Australian selectors and, presumably, the Australian captain? He would be the first bowler picked in my Aussie team every time, and yet he has been relegated to nothing but a support act on this tour. He is the kind of bowler that bowling attacks are built on.

  • TravellingDuttons on July 29, 2009, 2:41 GMT

    Bottom line is MJ is out of form. However to drop him would be very un-Aussie like in selection policy and would seriously dent his confidence even more.

    No one can (sensibly) argue against the fact that the Aussie bowling line up is the weakest to tour England in a generation. That doesn't mean they are not good enough to win...but they certainly do not have the potency of the recent era with Warne and McGrath.

    Massive call on the selection though and I'm intrigued to know which way they will turn. I expect to see McDonald in for North (harsh after a fine knock in Cardiff), but it provides more options to Punter if MJ is misfiring again. I find it hard to believe that Clark won't get in to the line up as well. Possibly at the expense of Hauritz or Siddle (dependent on the state of the pitch)?

    As for the pitches in England, they have produced two fine tests, which have gone 5 days and should have produced 2 results (had the aussies finished the job in Cardiff). Good for me.

  • Rusty_1 on July 29, 2009, 1:17 GMT

    I agree, It's strange to see the media all over the Aussie team. When you look at the stats, England have scored only 100 and change more runs in the series so far and taken some 9 wickets less? 4 of the top 5 bowlers are Aussie. Flintoff is the only Englishman to make the top 5 bowlers on the strength of one bowling effort at Lords only? As much as we all admire Flintoff, I don't think even the most ardent English fan will admit that he is going to take another 5 for in this series again. Who knows how his knee is holding up and for how much longer he can last? For mine, Clark has to come in - With an international average of 22 & hefty experience in English conditions, how can they not pick him. Who misses out? Tough choice. Has to be Siddle. Apart from one aggressive spell to Bopara at Cardiff, he has been pretty ordinary. Safe bet would be that they leave the team as it is for another test however....

  • baronvonchickenpants on July 29, 2009, 1:10 GMT

    Has anyone actually looked at Clarks' record in test match cricket? Superb in the extreme, and should have been first picked when fit. Bloody joke that he is on the sideline.

  • CharonTFm on July 28, 2009, 23:41 GMT

    DaTBird187 is spot on. Aus was dominating in Cardiff if not for the rain delay they would have won by an innings and that was with Johnson on the team. He may have been wayward, but he has collected 8 wickets which is better than most people on both sides.

    England has been there with chopping and dropping their members when they are out of form, so has Aus with their spinners. The only thing that resulted in is bad performance time and time again. If your managers don't have confidence in you, then how the hell are you going to have confidence in yourself. That is why Ponting has been a good Captain sticking by his man. If someone places their faith in you when times are bad, then you will repay that faith what ever way you can.

    Go collect some Wickets Johnson and show what idiots those critics are. Go get your hundreds Phillip Hughes and show what determination can do, rather than all that jib about proper technique!

  • MinusZero on July 28, 2009, 22:51 GMT

    Clark should be in for Johnson and if an allrounder is to be selected it should be McDonald. I am unconvinced about him as a test player but he at least is more durable that Watson who is as durable as a piece of wet paper.

  • DaTBird187 on July 28, 2009, 22:23 GMT

    It is amazing how various press and so called experts turn so much on the smallest thing. Australia were a wicket away from an innings victory in Cardiff and then have one bad innings at Lords then score 400+ in the 4th innings. All of a sudden they are the worst team to tour England in 20 years and have a bowling attack with the potency of a wet sponge. Turn it up!! The pitches here in England are a tiny step up from concrete pitches in the outback and are hardly worthy of test status. C'mon Australia.....England are not even close to being as good as us, here comes 3-1.

  • ausnick2001 on July 28, 2009, 21:44 GMT

    Well, I will have no sympathy for Ponting when Johnson gets whacked around in his first three overs, and he has no one to turn to...

    Sure it would be extraordinary for Johnson to be dropped so quickly, but the competition for bowling places is extraordinary at the moment...how often do you have someone with Clark's record waiting on the sidelines?

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  • ausnick2001 on July 28, 2009, 21:44 GMT

    Well, I will have no sympathy for Ponting when Johnson gets whacked around in his first three overs, and he has no one to turn to...

    Sure it would be extraordinary for Johnson to be dropped so quickly, but the competition for bowling places is extraordinary at the moment...how often do you have someone with Clark's record waiting on the sidelines?

  • DaTBird187 on July 28, 2009, 22:23 GMT

    It is amazing how various press and so called experts turn so much on the smallest thing. Australia were a wicket away from an innings victory in Cardiff and then have one bad innings at Lords then score 400+ in the 4th innings. All of a sudden they are the worst team to tour England in 20 years and have a bowling attack with the potency of a wet sponge. Turn it up!! The pitches here in England are a tiny step up from concrete pitches in the outback and are hardly worthy of test status. C'mon Australia.....England are not even close to being as good as us, here comes 3-1.

  • MinusZero on July 28, 2009, 22:51 GMT

    Clark should be in for Johnson and if an allrounder is to be selected it should be McDonald. I am unconvinced about him as a test player but he at least is more durable that Watson who is as durable as a piece of wet paper.

  • CharonTFm on July 28, 2009, 23:41 GMT

    DaTBird187 is spot on. Aus was dominating in Cardiff if not for the rain delay they would have won by an innings and that was with Johnson on the team. He may have been wayward, but he has collected 8 wickets which is better than most people on both sides.

    England has been there with chopping and dropping their members when they are out of form, so has Aus with their spinners. The only thing that resulted in is bad performance time and time again. If your managers don't have confidence in you, then how the hell are you going to have confidence in yourself. That is why Ponting has been a good Captain sticking by his man. If someone places their faith in you when times are bad, then you will repay that faith what ever way you can.

    Go collect some Wickets Johnson and show what idiots those critics are. Go get your hundreds Phillip Hughes and show what determination can do, rather than all that jib about proper technique!

  • baronvonchickenpants on July 29, 2009, 1:10 GMT

    Has anyone actually looked at Clarks' record in test match cricket? Superb in the extreme, and should have been first picked when fit. Bloody joke that he is on the sideline.

  • Rusty_1 on July 29, 2009, 1:17 GMT

    I agree, It's strange to see the media all over the Aussie team. When you look at the stats, England have scored only 100 and change more runs in the series so far and taken some 9 wickets less? 4 of the top 5 bowlers are Aussie. Flintoff is the only Englishman to make the top 5 bowlers on the strength of one bowling effort at Lords only? As much as we all admire Flintoff, I don't think even the most ardent English fan will admit that he is going to take another 5 for in this series again. Who knows how his knee is holding up and for how much longer he can last? For mine, Clark has to come in - With an international average of 22 & hefty experience in English conditions, how can they not pick him. Who misses out? Tough choice. Has to be Siddle. Apart from one aggressive spell to Bopara at Cardiff, he has been pretty ordinary. Safe bet would be that they leave the team as it is for another test however....

  • TravellingDuttons on July 29, 2009, 2:41 GMT

    Bottom line is MJ is out of form. However to drop him would be very un-Aussie like in selection policy and would seriously dent his confidence even more.

    No one can (sensibly) argue against the fact that the Aussie bowling line up is the weakest to tour England in a generation. That doesn't mean they are not good enough to win...but they certainly do not have the potency of the recent era with Warne and McGrath.

    Massive call on the selection though and I'm intrigued to know which way they will turn. I expect to see McDonald in for North (harsh after a fine knock in Cardiff), but it provides more options to Punter if MJ is misfiring again. I find it hard to believe that Clark won't get in to the line up as well. Possibly at the expense of Hauritz or Siddle (dependent on the state of the pitch)?

    As for the pitches in England, they have produced two fine tests, which have gone 5 days and should have produced 2 results (had the aussies finished the job in Cardiff). Good for me.

  • Beggnog on July 29, 2009, 2:55 GMT

    If Stuart Clark is not picked for the third test, I fear that I won't watch the remainder of the Ashes. How can a proven performer - one who if he doesn't get wickets himself, at least applies pressure with a consistent line and length - be so undervalued by the Australian selectors and, presumably, the Australian captain? He would be the first bowler picked in my Aussie team every time, and yet he has been relegated to nothing but a support act on this tour. He is the kind of bowler that bowling attacks are built on.

  • fission_chips on July 29, 2009, 6:44 GMT

    I am completely puzzled why Clark isn't, what Beggnog said, what the Aus bowling attack is built on. I have accounted for his recent injury, but I would have had him at the TOP of my selection list for this Ashes. Like McGrath, the man is really unplayable through line and length accuracy. Personally, I am really disappointed that he is on the sidelines for this series. His wickets and economy would provide an enormous inspiration for the younger bowlers who are clearly going to have many more years to pound the Poms. I have had to wonder about his personal relationships with the rest of the team and CA since his numbers and supreme reliablility make such a strong case. Only a thought, and a sad one. I was so looking forward to my boy bringing home some bags this series, my favorite Aussie bowler.

  • Ozcricketwriter on July 29, 2009, 7:49 GMT

    Australia have been reluctant to drop good players who are out of form; however they have been very keen to do so if they think that it will build character. Ricky Ponting, Matthew Hayden, Damien Martyn, Steve Waugh and many others were dropped to build character. I think that this is the situation here. Both Johnson and Hughes have had paths paved with gold so far and a spot on the sidelines would do them good. For me, it is a straight swap to drop Johnson and Hughes and bring in Stuart Clark and Watson. I would also consider dropping Siddle for McDonald, although that is more debatable. In 2005, Jason Gillespie's continued selection in spite of his horror run of form was a main reason why Australia did so badly. Let's not make the same mistake again.