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