August 5, 2009

Australia need Clark's control

The leaking of runs has made things easier for England's batsmen - and that's where Clark comes in

It's never an easy situation being 1-0 behind with two games to play, but Australia must win at Headingley to stay in touch. I firmly believe they can come back, there just needs to be a change in the bowling. Stuart Clark will come in - they really need his control - and either Mitchell Johnson or Peter Siddle will miss out. Brett Lee will also be talked about but I doubt the selectors will rush him back without having a warm-up game.

If Brett says he's fit, then he's fit, but he's only just started to bowl at full pace again and I get the feeling they will be reluctant to bring him in. It would be different if he had played the first two Tests and then missed the third one, but he had such a long layoff following ankle surgery and then he suffered this rib injury in Worcester. The selectors will want to see some proof that he's fit and firing before they rely on him again.

There's no doubt Brett will play the two-day tour game at Canterbury after this Test and then be in line for The Oval, if everything works out. He could charge in for the final game when the series is on the line!

So for Leeds, Clark is in, Ben Hilfenhaus is a definite and they have to play Nathan Hauritz. Always play one spinner at Headingley. That leaves a choice between Johnson and Siddle. After the Edgbaston draw Ricky Ponting talked up Johnson and said Siddle had some work to do, which could be a pointer. I'm a massive wrap for both of these guys - they are wonderful young quicks - but being dropped is no bad thing as a bowler. It's definitely not the end of the world.

Sometimes being dropped gives you time to reflect on what you have been struggling with and you get more of an opportunity to fix things. When you are playing all the time training is about keeping fresh and getting ready for the next stint in the field. A rest might be a good thing, although it won't feel like it immediately. Mitch was better in Birmingham, but both he and Sidds are still below their best.

Throughout the series there hasn't been pressure at both ends and it has become a real problem. At the other end Hilfenhaus has been fantastic, he's pitched it up, swung it, and hasn't gone for four or five an over. But with the leaking of runs has made things easier for England's batsmen - and that's where Clark comes in.

There might be some rain during the Test and if the conditions are cloudy it will help the bowlers, like it did at Edgbaston. Headingley has changed in years gone by, but when I played two seasons there with Yorkshire, whenever the cloud came over it started to swing. It's also a wonderful batting surface when the sun is shining and the birds are singing - not that it happens every day in Leeds!

I was impressed with the way the team scrapped for the draw on Monday and I'm sure they can hit back, but they have to remember to have some fun. It's easy to get down on a long tour, especially when you're behind, and team activities are crucial. In 2001 we played pub golf, a little pub crawl which got everyone together and was a great squad experience. Team togetherness is always an important thing and this team could spend a bit more time together in social situations.

Brett Lee will also be talked about but I doubt the selectors will rush him back without having a warm-up game

In the past blokes used to share hotel rooms, but now players have their own rooms and sometimes go into their shell, sitting in the room watching a DVD or playing XBox. There's a lot to be said for all meeting up and having a beer or soft drink.

Despite some setbacks, there's a lot for Australia to be optimistic about. Seriously! We've seen some great signs from the batsmen, Marcus North and Michael Clarke were great in the second innings in the third Test along with Michael Hussey and Shane Watson. The bowling is worrying me a little bit more, but Clark will bring that element of control.

With two games left Australia are hanging on. They've played three matches, thoroughly outplaying England in the first Test, then being thoroughly outplayed by England in the past two. And they're still only 1-0 down. Keep the faith.

Jason Gillespie is sixth on Australia's list of Test wicket-takers with 259 in 71 matches. He will write for Cricinfo through the 2009 Ashes

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Arron on August 6, 2009, 19:17 GMT

    Right now on cricinfo there's a preview of the Headingley Test which refers to the possibility of Ponting becoming the "first Australian captain in 100 years to lose two series in England."

    Now, I'm a passionate England fan. But, leaving aside our media's woeful sensationalising of everything to do with Ricky Ponting, which has become a total embarrassment, do you think they might get round to reminding us that he is also the only Australian (or indeed English) captain in 89 years to lead his side to an Ashes whitewash?

    More considered analyses will rightly point out what most people have said here: that Ponting has been hamstrung by an indefensible, complacent and plain stupid squad selection.

    Honestly, most England fans were dreading Stuart Clark playing here, whether or not he's lost a yard of pace.

  • Mark on August 6, 2009, 18:17 GMT

    I think the Aussies have to go for broke and play Lee and Clark. Surely it's lower risk for Australia to select Lee than England's roll of the dice with Flintoff's knee?

    Lee's reverse swing looked lethal in the Lions match and the conditions at Headingley may well suit Clark more than Johnson or Siddle.

    In fact, should Hussey make way for a 5th bowler (McDonald) if Haddin is fit enough to play?

    Perhaps that would be a bet too far for 'Punter' but I think an attack of Lee, Hilfenhaus, Clark, McDonald and Hauritz just might bowl England out twice.

  • Ben on August 6, 2009, 12:36 GMT

    I agree with MrSmith in that the selectors are showing faith (blind faith, in my view) in the Johnson-Siddle-Hilfenhaus trio from South Africa. However, what is conveniently forgotten about our success there was McDonald's massive contribution in bowling long, tight spells & building pressure with his awkward seamers. I have said it before and I'll say it again, tall economical bowlers who bowl with an upright seam, stump to stump, are what you build a bowling attack around. They are the guys that make supposedly more aggressive operators like Johnson, Lee and Siddle look good. Thus, for heaven's sake, bring in Clark (who is far and away the best of our talls) now!

  • Mashuq on August 6, 2009, 11:59 GMT

    I agree with Uranium about the poor selectorial decision-making. Still, all is still not lost. Clark will do the steadying job, allowing Johnson and Lee to attack in short bursts or when its reversing, etc. Hilfenhaus will keep doing what he's done so far. With that attack and decent catching (Manou again even if Haddin is fit!), they'll get 20 wickets. Then its over to the batsmen. Can they bat half-decently against the swinging ball? Can Punterand Hussey show some of their old form in English conditions. If they can, it'll be 1-1 on Tuesday!

  • Shannon on August 6, 2009, 9:36 GMT

    This is slightly off topic, but does anyone find the fact that Watson is always so oppinionated in the media a little bit annoying, espcially his comments regarding Brett Lee not being fit (even is he's not), as Watson must be the most injury prone player ever to wear the Baggy Green!

  • Rengarajan on August 6, 2009, 9:17 GMT

    Ricky Ponting is a poor captain. He should have used Stuart Clark from the first match itself. The next 2 matches can be won if Australia picks this team: 1) Phil Hughes 2) Simon KAtich 3) Ricky Ponting 4) M Clarke 5)M Hussey [Wicket Keeper and key batsman] 6)M North 7) M Johnson 8)Stuart Clark 9)N Hauritz 10) Brett Lee 11)Ben Hilfenhaus

    This team will certainly roll over England if Ricky uses his bowlers intelligently (!) in short spells. Otherwise, I don't see Aussies winning either of the two games.

  • James on August 6, 2009, 8:46 GMT

    Guys, remember both sides have to be taken account. Selectors are showing faith in the Johnson-Siddle-Hilfenhaus Trio considering it was them that helped beat South Africa (remember?). Johnson seems to be coming back and Hilfenhaus is having a great series which means these 2 have to be retained. Johnson has still got a fair amount of wickets despite being far from his best, not to forget his all-round ability.Siddle is getting wickets but i believe Lee has the ability to get wickets too and provides the cult figure from 05 that Australia strongly need. The aura and feeling that Flintoff provides. To be honest i do not believe that Flintoff has done great, but the tension when he comes out to bowl and bat helps England tenfold. Hauritz has done a great job so far therefore i believe he should retain his spot. But that means Clark yet again misses out.

  • Ramesh on August 6, 2009, 8:35 GMT

    who is selecting the Aussie team these days ?? For me Aussie team means a team who can dismiss the opposition twice in a test match !! I guess nobody else in the recent past had that strength ( Forget the great WI pace attack.. leave them alone). These bowlers in Aussie team does not deserve a place in the 11. just get back Clark and Lee.. then see the change in the team...

  • Adrian on August 6, 2009, 7:50 GMT

    If Lee is fit, then it doesn't seem to be complicated at all. Drop BOTH Siddle AND Johnson and bring in BOTH Lee AND Stuart Clark (no e in Clark, guys). The absence of Stuart Clark has been hurting Australia since day 1, much like how continuing to play Gillespie in 2005 hurt Australia then. One big difference is that this time around not only are they continuing to play an out of form bowler (Johnson this time, Gillespie in 2005) but they are also leaving out their best bowler (Stuart Clark) for no understandable reason. I have not read a single reason to leave Clark out, other than insanity. He is not injured, not out of form. There is absolutely no reason whatsoever for him to be kept out.

  • Ben on August 6, 2009, 7:49 GMT

    He is fit , even if he is a 50% chance to bowl well you must take Lee , in the Lions game he and Harmison were the only bowler who looked good . The bowling attack has no penetration and swapping Clarke for Siddle ( which is a given) will not help.

    So if Ben H has an off day who will lead ? Clarke , Nathan , Johnson or Watson. None unless Johnson hits his best in which case we will win regardless. Plan for the worst..

    Swap Lee for Nathan for this game its not a spinning ground anyway besides we have 3 ok spin bowlers and i don't think Nathan is much better than Clark or Katitch there average is about the same. They cant keep it tight but can get wickets , North can keep it tight in the right conditions. Besides with Ben H , Watson , Clarke , Johnson and Lee you should have some bowlers who are bowling well and many options for the conditions.

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