December 4, 2008

Downsides of the warm-up

Australia's low-key series win over New Zealand did not deliver all the solutions ahead of the South Africa title fight
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Time in the nets and practice games have value, but real runs are essential for Matthew Hayden after his struggles against New Zealand © Getty Images
 

Touring teams no longer rate performances in warm-up games highly and the same standard should apply to Australia's two-week clean sweep of New Zealand. Net training and practice games have their value, but it is the six Tests against South Africa over the next four months that will determine how far Australia have tumbled since the 2006-07 peak.

Fortunately they have been realistic about their trans-Tasman success. After the second Test in Adelaide Ponting was asked by someone - one of the few people to have been moved by the overall performance - how he rated the 2-0 victory among the highlights of his career. Instead of laughing, Ponting sat silently for a few seconds before saying the Kiwis weren't one of the strongest teams around. Except when the wicket was moist in Brisbane, New Zealand held no danger. South Africa carry it throughout their order.

After the loss in India it will be exciting to see Australia's measurements at home. The pre-series talk has begun, with the two coaches pretending they are players, and this time it is fascinating because the contest is real and the winner unknown. First versus second in the world no longer feels like No. 1 v No. 5. Working out which team is favoured is difficult because South Africa brushed off Bangladesh as comfortably as Australia did New Zealand.

However, the South Africans seem to have fewer concerns than the home team, which still has batting worries at the top and No. 6, and with spin. In tour games the players want to get used to the conditions and polish themselves for the tougher contests ahead. While that happened for many of the Australians, there was no breakthrough for Matthew Hayden or Andrew Symonds against the most modest of opponents, and the slow-bowling situation remains as accidental as it was when Jason Krejza arrived to capture 12 wickets in Nagpur.

When it comes to spin the selectors seem as muddled as if the chairman, Andrew Hilditch, had asked his underlings, David Boon, Merv Hughes and Jamie Cox, to understand the legal documents in his briefcase. Clear and intelligent minds are necessary for charting the next passage in Australian cricket without ruining a bunch of fringe players as they are shuffled in and out on whims.

Nothing has been learned from the rapid elevations of Dan Cullen and Cullen Bailey, who were given Cricket Australia contracts in 2007-08 but now sit on the fringes at South Australia. A love-me-now, ditch-me-quick method is threatening to waste another rung of hopefuls, with Nathan Hauritz surely due to join Beau Casson and Cameron White on the we'll-call-you list. When there isn't much to work with, even the maybes have to be loved.

 
 
Andrew Symonds has looked wayward, reflecting some of his recent off-field decisions, and the runs-based faith that he has developed over the past 18 months must have evaporated over the past fortnight
 

Some of the choices have been as strange as the journeys of those affected. Symonds, who got a bad decision in Adelaide, has looked wayward, reflecting some of his recent off-field decisions, and the runs-based faith that he has developed over the past 18 months must have evaporated over the past fortnight. Playing the world's second-best team is not a time to be betting on fragile figures with loosening reputations. Certainty is required with Symonds and Hayden. If there are doubts over whether they can make it through the next six Tests then other options are necessary.

Shane Watson is growing with every injury-free month and is starting to turn into a high-class allrounder. He is young, enthusiastic, talented and has shown a willingness to do anything - give up drinking and the gym, remodel his action and running style - to get into the side. Players of this sort are the ones Australia need during the bumps ahead, but after being rated the best fast bowler in India, Watson was dropped after the Brisbane Test. By responding with a double of seven wickets and 81 on the same day for Queensland in the Sheffield Shield, he proved he could be a long-term international option.

What the warm-up fixtures helped confirm was that Brad Haddin, Brett Lee and Mitchell Johnson have regained form and fitness, although even their displays require footnotes. New Zealand's batsmen were as fragile as some of the Australians in India and the bowling, apart from Daniel Vettori, was a long way from world class. The South Africans are genuine threats and the home side's line-up will need to be at its best to compete.

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • USDesi on December 5, 2008, 21:27 GMT

    Popcorn - I agree with everything you stated except "They beat India convincingly in Australia." Come on..that is stretching it. India were thouroughly outplayed in Melbourne. No complaints. They, in turn gave Australia some good old ass-whupping in Perth (their fortress). But you seem to have forgotten the Sydney game sandwiched in between, which was the most contentious test played in recent history. Yes, on paper, Aus won but we all know how. Looking forward to these home and away series and go Proteas!

  • Cric_Observer on December 5, 2008, 14:13 GMT

    Will SA actually win in AUS? The way to beat Australia is to get Mr cricket, Haydos and Punter out cheaply and the rest will crumble. Those are the 3 key players. Morkel will be key in getting out the left handers with his round the wicket method which worked incredibly well against England I can see this also working against the Aussies. If steyn can get his outswingers working effectively the right handers will struggle.

    SA will be worried about Kallis and his lack of form. You need your best batsman to be in top form to beat the aussies. One other thing that worries me about SA is that their batting line up is also weak against swing bowling. I still think Aus have a decent seam attack. I like Lee, Clark and Johnson these guys will trouble SA.

    SA have not been bulldozing teams. They did beat WI 2-1 ENG 2-1 IND 2-1 (AT HOME) 2-1 PAK (AT HOME). I still think Australia will beat SA in AUS. However in SA if Imran Tahir becomes an SA citizen he could make the difference

  • edygriff21 on December 5, 2008, 13:40 GMT

    C'mon, you're talking up the biggest chokers and flat track bullies in world cricket. You want to beat Australia, even with a developing side, you need to score at a strike rate better than mid 40's. Top 5 out of 10 scorers in 2008???? They've played Bangladesh in 4 of those tests!!! Kallis, there're best batsmen? what crap. 28.8 at a strike rate of 44 with one decent score in 12 months. You must be joking!!! Let's see how Steyn goes when he faces some quality batsmen. Punter, Huss and Roy will score big against a pace attack with no variety. Coin tosses won't affect the outcomes here. Class will.

  • shakenbake on December 5, 2008, 10:49 GMT

    Australia will need to step up in a big way if they want to retain their No 1 status. Success is easily achievable against NZ and the like through moments of quality by star players like Lee, Clarke etc, but it will require much more collectively to dismantle the South African batting line up. They've got 5 out the top 10 runs scorers for 2008, with the best batsman (JK) being the only one of the 6 batters not to feature. If Steyn (leading wicket taker 2008), Ntini and especially Morkel click then the going will be a lot tougher than anything the indifferent aussie line up has faced all year. My money is on a 1-1 drawn series in Aus with SA taking the spoils 2-0 at home in 2009 and ending at least 1 or 2 noteworthy aussie careers in the process.

  • ptoodle on December 5, 2008, 9:46 GMT

    Sure, Hayden is in his late 30s but don't so much complain about who's going to fill his void or Katich's, Australia has plenty of YOUNG options to fil 1 and 2, Everyone talks about Roy and Watson, What about Henriques, We have plenty of All-Rounders, Bowling, 5-6 fast bowlers waiting in the wings, Poor Casson has been dealt a bad blow, He should be given a try with Krejza, We have the best doemstic cricket competition in the world, Yes we are rebuilding but we won't fall in a heap like the West Indies, And India was at full strength against the Aussies too, Wait till they lose the like of Tendulkar, Laxman and Sehwag who are'nt getting any younger either, South Africa have thier best side comin over here since the late 90s, Yes it will show us were were at, But a few of the SA bats are'nt getting any younger either, England, Well thier filling the void with "top-up" players that aren't test material, I wanna see were the Aussies are at, And i predict in the top 2 for sure.

  • johnmal on December 5, 2008, 3:56 GMT

    I think the series will be close as the sides are matched well. Both lack spinners and both batting orders have chinks. It may come down to how the fast bowlers do.

    But the above is typical of journalism nowadays. Look only on one side, take sides so that people of both sides of the article will read it for vested reasons.

  • DamieninFrance on December 4, 2008, 21:44 GMT

    For once I'm starting to see some merit in England's experience with all rounders. I agree that they go overboard with them, but the English also recognise that an all rounder takes longer to pay-off. This isn't surprising given that they have two disciplines to master. The selectors took their time picking Roy, but now he's got currency. Watson should get the same benefit. They're different types of allrounders, and can both be matchwinners. Watson hasn't done it in a baggygreen yet, but his bowling improvements in India were impressive. My main worry is that South Africa's weakness in spin, and we don't really have the armoury to exploit it. With Steyn, Morkel and Ntini in their line-up, the likes of Lee, Johnson and Clark aren't going to bother them. So, we have to play Krejza, no matter what. He'll keep throwing them up, and encourage the batsmen to take him on. With SA, it's just a matter of time before he gets one through. Remember the ball that got Laxman. I'd like to see more.

  • StJohn on December 4, 2008, 19:26 GMT

    "I take it you didn't see [England] get smashed by SA at home recently" - I saw it, but I wouldn't say England were smashed. SA are better than England, but not by so much: but for a couple of bad calls off Monty's bowling to Smith late in the 3rd Test of that series, it could well've finished 2-1 to England. From what I saw of Steyn, Morkel and Ntini, I think Australia still has a big edge whatever the contents of the Aussie spin cupboard. Sure, there's no stand-out megastar spinner at the moment, but Krejza deserves a go after 12 wkts on debut. You've also got Casson, Hauritz & McGain too. I'd say the spin options look pretty good - one or two of them now just need an extended run to develop & prove themselves. I'd expect Hayden & Symonds to come good (Hayden played pretty well in the last 2 Tests in India). The Aussie batting looks pretty good too. By contrast, SA are very solid, but McKenzie, Prince etc could bore a corpse with the way they bat. I reckon 2-1 to Oz in both series!

  • Stevo_ on December 4, 2008, 17:36 GMT

    @ Duchy "Does anyone really think Watson is one of the four best bowlers in the country? Better than Noffke, Bollinger, Siddle, Hilfenhaus, etc?"

    Thank the lord I'm not alone in thinking Watson is a waste of time and space as a test cricketer. I have been saying it for years, he brings nothing to the team as he weakens any spot he is put in ( as Duchy pointed out )

    Don't try and invent an all rounder, if you have a Keith Miller or Jaques Kallis that's excellent, but trying to create one out of nothing is a recipe for failure.

  • dan24 on December 4, 2008, 16:15 GMT

    First and foremost, I think South Africa have been the sleeping giant over the past 24 months or so. There has been much made about the Indian's rise to the top of world cricket but lets not forget South Africa's recently drawn series over there and their previous 8 series wins. When touring Australia for the first time, Graeme Smith was brimming with confidence and failed in his endeavours... however let us not forget that this time around much has changed. Langer, Martyn, Gilchrist, Warne and McGrath have all gone and what remains is a building team. Australia won't suffer as the West Indies did after its long stay at the top, it has the internal structure at the roots of cricket to maintain and develop a new, successful team. The biggest issue facing Australia is the possibility of losing for the first time on home soil since 1991... and trying to curb their tall poppy syndrome that has plagued cricket in this country for way too long.

  • USDesi on December 5, 2008, 21:27 GMT

    Popcorn - I agree with everything you stated except "They beat India convincingly in Australia." Come on..that is stretching it. India were thouroughly outplayed in Melbourne. No complaints. They, in turn gave Australia some good old ass-whupping in Perth (their fortress). But you seem to have forgotten the Sydney game sandwiched in between, which was the most contentious test played in recent history. Yes, on paper, Aus won but we all know how. Looking forward to these home and away series and go Proteas!

  • Cric_Observer on December 5, 2008, 14:13 GMT

    Will SA actually win in AUS? The way to beat Australia is to get Mr cricket, Haydos and Punter out cheaply and the rest will crumble. Those are the 3 key players. Morkel will be key in getting out the left handers with his round the wicket method which worked incredibly well against England I can see this also working against the Aussies. If steyn can get his outswingers working effectively the right handers will struggle.

    SA will be worried about Kallis and his lack of form. You need your best batsman to be in top form to beat the aussies. One other thing that worries me about SA is that their batting line up is also weak against swing bowling. I still think Aus have a decent seam attack. I like Lee, Clark and Johnson these guys will trouble SA.

    SA have not been bulldozing teams. They did beat WI 2-1 ENG 2-1 IND 2-1 (AT HOME) 2-1 PAK (AT HOME). I still think Australia will beat SA in AUS. However in SA if Imran Tahir becomes an SA citizen he could make the difference

  • edygriff21 on December 5, 2008, 13:40 GMT

    C'mon, you're talking up the biggest chokers and flat track bullies in world cricket. You want to beat Australia, even with a developing side, you need to score at a strike rate better than mid 40's. Top 5 out of 10 scorers in 2008???? They've played Bangladesh in 4 of those tests!!! Kallis, there're best batsmen? what crap. 28.8 at a strike rate of 44 with one decent score in 12 months. You must be joking!!! Let's see how Steyn goes when he faces some quality batsmen. Punter, Huss and Roy will score big against a pace attack with no variety. Coin tosses won't affect the outcomes here. Class will.

  • shakenbake on December 5, 2008, 10:49 GMT

    Australia will need to step up in a big way if they want to retain their No 1 status. Success is easily achievable against NZ and the like through moments of quality by star players like Lee, Clarke etc, but it will require much more collectively to dismantle the South African batting line up. They've got 5 out the top 10 runs scorers for 2008, with the best batsman (JK) being the only one of the 6 batters not to feature. If Steyn (leading wicket taker 2008), Ntini and especially Morkel click then the going will be a lot tougher than anything the indifferent aussie line up has faced all year. My money is on a 1-1 drawn series in Aus with SA taking the spoils 2-0 at home in 2009 and ending at least 1 or 2 noteworthy aussie careers in the process.

  • ptoodle on December 5, 2008, 9:46 GMT

    Sure, Hayden is in his late 30s but don't so much complain about who's going to fill his void or Katich's, Australia has plenty of YOUNG options to fil 1 and 2, Everyone talks about Roy and Watson, What about Henriques, We have plenty of All-Rounders, Bowling, 5-6 fast bowlers waiting in the wings, Poor Casson has been dealt a bad blow, He should be given a try with Krejza, We have the best doemstic cricket competition in the world, Yes we are rebuilding but we won't fall in a heap like the West Indies, And India was at full strength against the Aussies too, Wait till they lose the like of Tendulkar, Laxman and Sehwag who are'nt getting any younger either, South Africa have thier best side comin over here since the late 90s, Yes it will show us were were at, But a few of the SA bats are'nt getting any younger either, England, Well thier filling the void with "top-up" players that aren't test material, I wanna see were the Aussies are at, And i predict in the top 2 for sure.

  • johnmal on December 5, 2008, 3:56 GMT

    I think the series will be close as the sides are matched well. Both lack spinners and both batting orders have chinks. It may come down to how the fast bowlers do.

    But the above is typical of journalism nowadays. Look only on one side, take sides so that people of both sides of the article will read it for vested reasons.

  • DamieninFrance on December 4, 2008, 21:44 GMT

    For once I'm starting to see some merit in England's experience with all rounders. I agree that they go overboard with them, but the English also recognise that an all rounder takes longer to pay-off. This isn't surprising given that they have two disciplines to master. The selectors took their time picking Roy, but now he's got currency. Watson should get the same benefit. They're different types of allrounders, and can both be matchwinners. Watson hasn't done it in a baggygreen yet, but his bowling improvements in India were impressive. My main worry is that South Africa's weakness in spin, and we don't really have the armoury to exploit it. With Steyn, Morkel and Ntini in their line-up, the likes of Lee, Johnson and Clark aren't going to bother them. So, we have to play Krejza, no matter what. He'll keep throwing them up, and encourage the batsmen to take him on. With SA, it's just a matter of time before he gets one through. Remember the ball that got Laxman. I'd like to see more.

  • StJohn on December 4, 2008, 19:26 GMT

    "I take it you didn't see [England] get smashed by SA at home recently" - I saw it, but I wouldn't say England were smashed. SA are better than England, but not by so much: but for a couple of bad calls off Monty's bowling to Smith late in the 3rd Test of that series, it could well've finished 2-1 to England. From what I saw of Steyn, Morkel and Ntini, I think Australia still has a big edge whatever the contents of the Aussie spin cupboard. Sure, there's no stand-out megastar spinner at the moment, but Krejza deserves a go after 12 wkts on debut. You've also got Casson, Hauritz & McGain too. I'd say the spin options look pretty good - one or two of them now just need an extended run to develop & prove themselves. I'd expect Hayden & Symonds to come good (Hayden played pretty well in the last 2 Tests in India). The Aussie batting looks pretty good too. By contrast, SA are very solid, but McKenzie, Prince etc could bore a corpse with the way they bat. I reckon 2-1 to Oz in both series!

  • Stevo_ on December 4, 2008, 17:36 GMT

    @ Duchy "Does anyone really think Watson is one of the four best bowlers in the country? Better than Noffke, Bollinger, Siddle, Hilfenhaus, etc?"

    Thank the lord I'm not alone in thinking Watson is a waste of time and space as a test cricketer. I have been saying it for years, he brings nothing to the team as he weakens any spot he is put in ( as Duchy pointed out )

    Don't try and invent an all rounder, if you have a Keith Miller or Jaques Kallis that's excellent, but trying to create one out of nothing is a recipe for failure.

  • dan24 on December 4, 2008, 16:15 GMT

    First and foremost, I think South Africa have been the sleeping giant over the past 24 months or so. There has been much made about the Indian's rise to the top of world cricket but lets not forget South Africa's recently drawn series over there and their previous 8 series wins. When touring Australia for the first time, Graeme Smith was brimming with confidence and failed in his endeavours... however let us not forget that this time around much has changed. Langer, Martyn, Gilchrist, Warne and McGrath have all gone and what remains is a building team. Australia won't suffer as the West Indies did after its long stay at the top, it has the internal structure at the roots of cricket to maintain and develop a new, successful team. The biggest issue facing Australia is the possibility of losing for the first time on home soil since 1991... and trying to curb their tall poppy syndrome that has plagued cricket in this country for way too long.

  • krishtd on December 4, 2008, 14:44 GMT

    The India series was sure a wake-up call for the Aussies. There is no shame in accepting that India were the better side throughout the series and outplayed Australia in every aspect of the game. Valvolux-I don't see your reason of Australia losing because of players lacking match-practice when the same bunch had beaten West Indies so comprehensively just before the India series. And who were the key players missing? Andrew Symonds was the only one missing from the squad to tour West Indies. The lack of a quality spinner since the genius Warne departed, has obviously made it difficult for the Aussies to bundle out opposition sides cheaply. Having said that, Jason Krejza looks a very good prospect since his debut in Nagpur where he took a 10-for. The South Africans' frailties towards spin are well documented in the past and he must be given a place in the final eleven in all the three tests. Having said that, I am looking forward to the series with bated breath.

  • Josh88 on December 4, 2008, 13:16 GMT

    Not a bad article but just a couple of things which I think you should have touched on:

    1- You are critical of the selector's policy with spinners but let's not forget that they keep getting injured or putting n sub-par performances so I think its fair to be rotating them! Lets not forget that McGain is supposed to be played. Australia is down its 5th choice spinner atm. 2- South Africa don't have a decent spinner either

    I agree that this series will be the best indicator of where the Australian team is at, I still think that at home Australia has to go in as solid favorites.

  • Gilliana on December 4, 2008, 13:11 GMT

    I saw both the Tests on TV and though the results show that the Kiwis lost badly, the Australians did not look that good. The Kiwis lost only because they lacked cohesion and showed lack of effort. Whenever the Kiwis play the Aussies they cringe psychologically. The Kiwis are not so weak a side that one would imagine and on any given day can give the Aussies a run for their money. It is the usual media hype that was magnifying Australia's form but actually the team looked disipated and that look on the face that they were thrashed by the Indians still looked there. Much had been potrayed by the Australian media about Lee coming back to his best. Though he was the wrecker of the Kiwis, he looked ordinary. It was the listless play by the Kiwis in both Tests that made the Aussies look good. I feel comfortable to add that the Indians can give the Aussies another beating in the Aussie's own backyard. The visiting South Africans can beat them too.

  • popcorn on December 4, 2008, 11:53 GMT

    The TRUE World Championship of Test Cricket and ODIs is about to begin. Home and Away,and in quick time-THAT's the real McCoy!I am getting tired of everybody moaning about the fall of the Aussie strength after the retirements of Damien Martyn,Shane Warne,Glenn McGrath,Justin Langer.But wasn't this the same situation after Allan Border,Mark Taylor and Steve Waugh retired,and so did great players like Mark Waugh?And yet,barring India where Australia took 35 years to win after Bill Lawry's team won - so a win there is not really a yardstick,Ponting and his NEW men have continued winning.They beat Sri Lanka in Australia.They won in the West Indies.They beat India convincingly in Australia.They beat New Zealand comprehensively last week. The fast bowling attack of Brett Lee, Stuart Clark,Mitchell Johnson and Shane Watson is looking good.Jason Krejza is raring to spin it.The batsmen, Simon Katich,Michael Clarke,Ricky Ponting,Michael Hussey, Brad Haddin are in fine touch.Hayden WILL come good

  • valvolux on December 4, 2008, 11:02 GMT

    Turn it up guys - this is the real challenge. It is indeed the series that will tell us where the Aussies are at. The Indian series didn't tell us anything because the Aussies were missing key players, several were unfit and lacking match practice….it has already been shown that when this current team is fit they can easily account for that Indian team in Test Cricket, especially on Aussie soil. If they were fit and firing with a bit of luck at the coin toss I dare say they would've been capable of smashing them in India as well. South Africa are the real test and are a better side than India…and refreshingly don't act like school kids when they are winning or losing - it will be a great series both home and away….hard to say who will win, but it certainly isn't going to be a blow out as it has been in the past. Did someone mention England as the true test? Ha! That's the one we want to win most, but I take it you didn't see them get smashed by SA at home recently.

  • Bramo_Tas on December 4, 2008, 10:10 GMT

    I get what slugger is trying to say. In 2001 & 2004 people were comparing the Aussie team to the great West Indies teams and the '48 Invincibles. Even then they found it tough to do well in India. Just because a rebuilding team lost in India doesn't mean we'll tumble down the ratings. Hayden finished the series in India much improved. A game on a dodgy wicket and a silly run out hardly mean he is finished. You can't really criticize the spinner 'rotation', we've had two guys retire and a couple of injuries this year. I do like Watson. I think he is a better prospect with the bat than Symonds. Remember it took Roy a good while to find his feet at test level.

  • robheinen on December 4, 2008, 10:00 GMT

    In my opinion this article has been a bit biased in its outlook at the upcoming series. I would like to phrase this in a question. If australia, with symonds, clarke and katich have a spinning problem, what does south africa have, having no part time spinners in their line. South Africa may sacrifice a full bowler spot to some player who hardly knows what spin is himself! It is ok to mourn for the loss of shane warne. It may hurt to miss stuart mcgill. But it's been enough now. It's time to move on. In my opinion you build a team from the material you have available and you don't envisage a particular team composition and then conclude that you're unable to fill the gaps. Time for common sense.

  • IndianCricLover on December 4, 2008, 9:11 GMT

    Autralia need some soul searching and humility to come out of the current situation and not be arrogant. They need to rethink and go back to late 80's to see what they did at that point in time.

  • Sprewell on December 4, 2008, 8:47 GMT

    Openers are not a problem. If Haydos is under the microscope then you can chuck in Ponting as well. Even if Haydos cant make a run then you bring in the run scoring maestro Rogers (Jacques has to prove himself at state level again after his break). Our batting lineup (Hodge backup) is better than SA (Kallis is in very ordinary form) with Amla and Prince being their best. #6 maybe the issue if Symonds cant get some confidence with bat. Long term Watson is the man but not until you have given Roy a decent opportunity and dont upset the balance of the side by trying to fit him in @ 7. Im not too concerned about spin, Krejza is worth a crack for a while, its more our pace attack. Johnson and Lee are scatter guns without much movement (despite getting some cheap NZ wickets) and Clark doesnt seem very penetrating. Leave Siddle out please! He tries hard but really doesnt do much with the ball. No more Tait or White either. Have to look at Magoffin, Nannes and Geeves at some point.

  • jamrith on December 4, 2008, 8:22 GMT

    Slugger1969, you say you don't read too much into the loss in India because Australia were flat out winning there at the peak of their powers. I am unable to read your spin, the wrong 'un perhaps, since the discussion centres on Australia's form based on the current team, not one with all the old stalwarts. Having said that, I am sure the current Aussie team will prove a good match for the South Africans who have often flattered to deceive,and are as bereft of spinning options as the Aussies seem to be. Also, Kallis is definitely past his peak, he struggled against lowly Bangladesh--need I say more!!

  • don69 on December 4, 2008, 7:44 GMT

    The loss in India was due to a superior performance by the home team and a poor one from the Aussies. There were some sparks, but overall India played better cricket and deserved to win. Against NZ in Australia it was never a contest, even if Bond and Oram were in the side. At most they would have gone the full 5 days. I don't think the selectors are the problem where the spinner are concerned. The fact is, there isn't a standout spinner in Australia anymore. Casson, Hauritz and Krejza are all possibles but none a clear cut favourite. Given this, I would have tried them all just as was done - AHEAD OF THE ASHES. Let's not forget that NZ, South africa and even India are all warmups ahead of the real test challenge. As to an allrounder - Symonds is in the team for his batting and fielding. He can contribute with the ball, but that's a bonus. Watson is an allrounder and should be in the team when an extra paceman is needed. It's likely the choice would be between him and a spinner.

  • dutchy on December 4, 2008, 5:27 GMT

    Australia doesn't need an all rounder. They need six good batsmen, four good bowlers and a wicketkeeper. Does anyone really think Watson is one of the four best bowlers in the country? Better than Noffke, Bollinger, Siddle, Hilfenhaus, etc? He's only gotten three five-wicket hauls in first class cricket in his career. And before anyone says "what about his batting" I acknowledge he's okay batting at first class and one day level - but one fifty in 13 test innings does not indicate the next Keith Miller. He's more like the next Chris Lewis. Play Watson at seven and you weaken the bowling, play him at six and you weaken the batting. Let's not make the mistakes England keep making with their silly allrounder obsession.

  • Rusty_1 on December 4, 2008, 4:40 GMT

    With regards to Roy - I don't think you can question his form after 2 games back. He looked a little scrachy at the start of his first knock back, but the signs looked promising. He also prowled around the field in his usual fashion & seemed to lift the team spirit. Watson has had a few good games and for mine, unless he proves himself over a longer period of time, should not be considered unless the pitch is pace/swing friendly. His batting is not as explosive as Roys & consequently his big downfall.

    Haydos - a little bit different. I think that the selectors are going to want to keep him around & I think he has the next 3 tests to prove himself. No runs at home = the chop & in comes Jacques, who bats very well with Katich. The two of them will be a force to be reckoned with for sure as both are hungry for runs. The promising signs are there for the Aussies,with the fielding improving & player performances on the up.It will be a close run thing,I put my money on a close Aussie win

  • slugger1969 on December 4, 2008, 4:37 GMT

    The runs-based faith Symonds developed has evaporated? How? He got 20 odd in each innings of a low scoring game in Brisbane and a dud call in Adelaide. Strange observation Peter. Symonds sure doesn't seem to be a journalists favourite by any means. Yet you say Watson has batting cred despite his even poorer return in the Gabba test. Personally, I think Watson could be anything in test cricket but he needs to get some consistent performances on the board. At least Symonds has done that. South Africa will be an enormous test. I don't read too much into the loss in India, unlike other people, because Australia were flat out winning there at the peak of their powers.

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  • slugger1969 on December 4, 2008, 4:37 GMT

    The runs-based faith Symonds developed has evaporated? How? He got 20 odd in each innings of a low scoring game in Brisbane and a dud call in Adelaide. Strange observation Peter. Symonds sure doesn't seem to be a journalists favourite by any means. Yet you say Watson has batting cred despite his even poorer return in the Gabba test. Personally, I think Watson could be anything in test cricket but he needs to get some consistent performances on the board. At least Symonds has done that. South Africa will be an enormous test. I don't read too much into the loss in India, unlike other people, because Australia were flat out winning there at the peak of their powers.

  • Rusty_1 on December 4, 2008, 4:40 GMT

    With regards to Roy - I don't think you can question his form after 2 games back. He looked a little scrachy at the start of his first knock back, but the signs looked promising. He also prowled around the field in his usual fashion & seemed to lift the team spirit. Watson has had a few good games and for mine, unless he proves himself over a longer period of time, should not be considered unless the pitch is pace/swing friendly. His batting is not as explosive as Roys & consequently his big downfall.

    Haydos - a little bit different. I think that the selectors are going to want to keep him around & I think he has the next 3 tests to prove himself. No runs at home = the chop & in comes Jacques, who bats very well with Katich. The two of them will be a force to be reckoned with for sure as both are hungry for runs. The promising signs are there for the Aussies,with the fielding improving & player performances on the up.It will be a close run thing,I put my money on a close Aussie win

  • dutchy on December 4, 2008, 5:27 GMT

    Australia doesn't need an all rounder. They need six good batsmen, four good bowlers and a wicketkeeper. Does anyone really think Watson is one of the four best bowlers in the country? Better than Noffke, Bollinger, Siddle, Hilfenhaus, etc? He's only gotten three five-wicket hauls in first class cricket in his career. And before anyone says "what about his batting" I acknowledge he's okay batting at first class and one day level - but one fifty in 13 test innings does not indicate the next Keith Miller. He's more like the next Chris Lewis. Play Watson at seven and you weaken the bowling, play him at six and you weaken the batting. Let's not make the mistakes England keep making with their silly allrounder obsession.

  • don69 on December 4, 2008, 7:44 GMT

    The loss in India was due to a superior performance by the home team and a poor one from the Aussies. There were some sparks, but overall India played better cricket and deserved to win. Against NZ in Australia it was never a contest, even if Bond and Oram were in the side. At most they would have gone the full 5 days. I don't think the selectors are the problem where the spinner are concerned. The fact is, there isn't a standout spinner in Australia anymore. Casson, Hauritz and Krejza are all possibles but none a clear cut favourite. Given this, I would have tried them all just as was done - AHEAD OF THE ASHES. Let's not forget that NZ, South africa and even India are all warmups ahead of the real test challenge. As to an allrounder - Symonds is in the team for his batting and fielding. He can contribute with the ball, but that's a bonus. Watson is an allrounder and should be in the team when an extra paceman is needed. It's likely the choice would be between him and a spinner.

  • jamrith on December 4, 2008, 8:22 GMT

    Slugger1969, you say you don't read too much into the loss in India because Australia were flat out winning there at the peak of their powers. I am unable to read your spin, the wrong 'un perhaps, since the discussion centres on Australia's form based on the current team, not one with all the old stalwarts. Having said that, I am sure the current Aussie team will prove a good match for the South Africans who have often flattered to deceive,and are as bereft of spinning options as the Aussies seem to be. Also, Kallis is definitely past his peak, he struggled against lowly Bangladesh--need I say more!!

  • Sprewell on December 4, 2008, 8:47 GMT

    Openers are not a problem. If Haydos is under the microscope then you can chuck in Ponting as well. Even if Haydos cant make a run then you bring in the run scoring maestro Rogers (Jacques has to prove himself at state level again after his break). Our batting lineup (Hodge backup) is better than SA (Kallis is in very ordinary form) with Amla and Prince being their best. #6 maybe the issue if Symonds cant get some confidence with bat. Long term Watson is the man but not until you have given Roy a decent opportunity and dont upset the balance of the side by trying to fit him in @ 7. Im not too concerned about spin, Krejza is worth a crack for a while, its more our pace attack. Johnson and Lee are scatter guns without much movement (despite getting some cheap NZ wickets) and Clark doesnt seem very penetrating. Leave Siddle out please! He tries hard but really doesnt do much with the ball. No more Tait or White either. Have to look at Magoffin, Nannes and Geeves at some point.

  • IndianCricLover on December 4, 2008, 9:11 GMT

    Autralia need some soul searching and humility to come out of the current situation and not be arrogant. They need to rethink and go back to late 80's to see what they did at that point in time.

  • robheinen on December 4, 2008, 10:00 GMT

    In my opinion this article has been a bit biased in its outlook at the upcoming series. I would like to phrase this in a question. If australia, with symonds, clarke and katich have a spinning problem, what does south africa have, having no part time spinners in their line. South Africa may sacrifice a full bowler spot to some player who hardly knows what spin is himself! It is ok to mourn for the loss of shane warne. It may hurt to miss stuart mcgill. But it's been enough now. It's time to move on. In my opinion you build a team from the material you have available and you don't envisage a particular team composition and then conclude that you're unable to fill the gaps. Time for common sense.

  • Bramo_Tas on December 4, 2008, 10:10 GMT

    I get what slugger is trying to say. In 2001 & 2004 people were comparing the Aussie team to the great West Indies teams and the '48 Invincibles. Even then they found it tough to do well in India. Just because a rebuilding team lost in India doesn't mean we'll tumble down the ratings. Hayden finished the series in India much improved. A game on a dodgy wicket and a silly run out hardly mean he is finished. You can't really criticize the spinner 'rotation', we've had two guys retire and a couple of injuries this year. I do like Watson. I think he is a better prospect with the bat than Symonds. Remember it took Roy a good while to find his feet at test level.

  • valvolux on December 4, 2008, 11:02 GMT

    Turn it up guys - this is the real challenge. It is indeed the series that will tell us where the Aussies are at. The Indian series didn't tell us anything because the Aussies were missing key players, several were unfit and lacking match practice….it has already been shown that when this current team is fit they can easily account for that Indian team in Test Cricket, especially on Aussie soil. If they were fit and firing with a bit of luck at the coin toss I dare say they would've been capable of smashing them in India as well. South Africa are the real test and are a better side than India…and refreshingly don't act like school kids when they are winning or losing - it will be a great series both home and away….hard to say who will win, but it certainly isn't going to be a blow out as it has been in the past. Did someone mention England as the true test? Ha! That's the one we want to win most, but I take it you didn't see them get smashed by SA at home recently.