August 11, 2009

Pace battery will win it for Australia

There was nothing wrong with the bowling at Headingley, no leaking of runs, no easing of pressure

What a demolition job the Australians did at Leeds. It was fantastic to see them getting everything right and England having no answers. The hosts were shell-shocked and I can't see them coming back from here. No way.

From the first morning the Australian bowling was spot-on and it was great to see the best of Mitchell Johnson, even though his technical issues aren't fully fixed. With a slingy action there will always be periods of inconsistency for him, but when it's right, gee whiz, what a star. He was bowling at 90mph and shaping the ball a bit, occasionally getting it to come back. That's his shock weapon - I'm not sure whether he knows how he's doing it - but it works so well.

He delivered some rip-snorting short deliveries to Ian Bell and Paul Collingwood, and England's middle order had no idea what to do with him. It was great to see. This is the guy the Australians remember from the home summer, hurrying the batsmen and clipping their edges. He finished with 5 for 69 in the second innings, a haul set up by his three-wicket spell late on the second day. It was outstanding stuff.

There was talk all through the series about how the bowlers hadn't been at their best, but there was nothing wrong at Headingley, no leaking of runs, no easing of pressure (until the tail had a crack in the second innings). They used the short ball well and the rest of the time their line and length was superb. Sheesh, they got it so right. I've been waiting to see it all series.

While Peter Siddle and Johnson got the five-wicket hauls, I thought Ben Hilfenhaus was consistently the best bowler during the game. Stuart Clark was also excellent in the first innings - don't worry about what happened to him in the second - but for me it was all about Hilfenhaus. He pitches it up, gets it to swing and his reward is, he's the leading man for the series with 18 victims at 26.38. He'll be a key figure again when they try to wrap up the series at The Oval next week.

Before that, they have a two-day game in Canterbury, which will just mean giving a few guys a hit or some overs. Brett Lee and Clark will want to bowl well and they will probably have Andrew McDonald and Shane Watson for support. Don't expect to see Johnson, Hilfenhaus or Siddle playing. They deserve a rest after what they did in Leeds.

There are only two realistic options: go with the four bowlers who played at Headingley, or bring Nathan Hauritz in for Clark. It's bad luck for Lee

The selectors will want to see Lee fit and firing, but it's going to be hard to pick him for The Oval. There are only two realistic options: go with the four bowlers who played at Headingley, or bring Nathan Hauritz in for Clark. It's bad luck for Lee, who is a match-winning bowler and a great, but his side injury was poorly timed. It would be a harsh call to leave out any of the guys who played in the fourth Test.

I don't think Ravi Bopara can play at No. 3 again, but don't be fooled by the old-time names being thrown around. They won't go with Mark Ramprakash or Marcus Trescothick. They won't! They would be sensible to bring in the Kent duo of Joe Denly and Robert Key to help stabilise the situation, although I don't think it will matter. It will be a resounding win for Australia at The Oval and they'll take the Ashes back home. The Headingley game reaffirmed what I thought all along, and Ricky Ponting's men will be too strong.

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

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  • Simon on August 14, 2009, 9:52 GMT

    So Hilditch was 'thrilled' with the selections for the first 3 tests? I can only assume he was 'thrilled' with the way his top edge hook shots against Richard Hadlee used to land safely in the hands of fine leg. Pick your 6 best batsmen, a wicketkeeper, and your 4 best bowlers. Please. Clark is a better bowler than Haritz. It's not rocket science. Although I think the helmet Hildich used to wear consisted of materials used by NASA in the 60's. Siddle, Johnson, Hilfenhaus and Hauritz have bowled together 4 times for 2 losses and 2 draws. I guess there is balance in that.

  • sridhar on August 14, 2009, 6:23 GMT

    Australia are currently sitting pretty and seem to have an embarassment of riches. It is strange that Hilditch and co do not seem to have the same view of Clark as the rest of the world or even the English batsmen! Unless the Oval wicket is a dust bowl , Australia will be better off playing 4 seamers as they did in South Africa. There is no doubt that Nathan Hauritz has taken the most of his limited opportunity. But Clark and Hilfenfaus really put pressure on the English batsmen and if Australia can bat well in the first innings as they did at Cardiff and Headingley then they should be home and dry. Johnson is coming back to the form he showed against South Africa. And yet this Australian team is not yet a finished product. There are many positives like the maturity of Michael Clarke and the consistency of North, not to forget the success of Hilfenfaus. England were pathetic at Headingley. Australia are ahead, but just so and it is not as easy as Gillespie makes it out to be. Sridhar

  • Luke on August 13, 2009, 5:28 GMT

    I didn't realise Clark had such a golden run in terms of Aus' results with him in the team! Hussey can't open, people have gone on about that ever since he came into the Aus side and not one selector or player has ever made any statement even implying it could happen. The Clark/Hauritz selection is the hardest of the series I think. Watson doesn't seem to be bowling much so we won't see 12-15 overs out of him. I'd go with the same 11. Pace will do the job again and there's wrist and finger spin should it be required. I know this goes in the face of valid commentary on how NOT to use spinners but in the case don't worry about the 5th day pitch: win it in 3. Expect to see big runs from Ponting for his last test in England.

  • Nathan on August 13, 2009, 3:50 GMT

    How about we keep Clark in the team and drop Hilditch and Cox instead? Hilditch just comes across as incresingly clueless. hahaha @JulesUK ... I don't think Dizzy said, or even came close to implying, that 'we are invincible', but nice overreaction anyway. And 'this young team that has so far not won a great deal' has beaten South Africa in SA which, apart from Australia in Australia or India in India, is only about the biggest scalp there is. Most of what I've read from the English press and fans indicates that they seemed to believed that once the Warne McGrath era ended they would have a nice little run of Ashes victories, because clearly the Australian team is nowhere near as good as it was when those guys and others were on the park. The fact that seems to have eluded the pommy media and fans is that Australia don't have to be world beaters or even need to have a great team to be competitive with england.

  • Oscar on August 13, 2009, 1:57 GMT

    What all selectors don't realise is that the game has changed, in particular pitches. You must field 4 quicks and unless the pitch won't turn at all, a genuine spinner as well. Hilditch and company come from an era when pitches offered assistance, having 3 quicks bowl on featherbed wickets only seeds up retirement. I'd like to see Siddle out for Lee, Hussey out for Hauritz. Clark coming in at 10, Lee at 9 and Hauritz at 8 is worth 50 in its self.

  • Nick on August 12, 2009, 14:21 GMT

    As an England supporter it's interesting reading the opinion from the Aussie perspective.I can't believe the idea of dropping Clark is an option the Aussie selectors are seriously considering,that would suggest what happened at headingley was a mere coincidence. Ok,England were too bad to be in all depts over the two and half days but that was all to do with the first session and Clark's contribution allowing the other 3 to bowl to their own strengths,all 4 bowling as a reliable unit and even bringing Johnson back to form. Personally I hope they do leave him out as it would certainly help England's cause. Mind you he could be left out,play with 10 men and the aussies would still win if we persist with the deadly duo of Bopara and Bell.

  • Matthew on August 12, 2009, 11:07 GMT

    It amazes me that the average punter can see the obvious, but the selectors (Hilditch specifically) make such uneducated statements about their selections. I understand they see more of these guys and where they're at in training/fitness, but when it comes down to it, it's about performances on the field and blind (bad knee) Freddie can see what Clark brought to the team. It's not all about wickets, but balance and control - two things that Clark provides. Without him there and his first spell, I have no doubt we wouldn't have won the last test the way we did, if at all. It took the pressure off Hilfenhaus to carry us, allowed Siddle to be menacing and Johnson to go all out attack. You drop Clark and you open the door for the English. How about finally dropping the underporming Hussey and trust our batsmen to make runs on a flat wicket (Johnson and Clark prop up the tail anyway) and add Hauritz as an extra bowler to help us take 20 wickets on a flat track?

  • Leanne on August 12, 2009, 10:29 GMT

    It's absolutely unbelievable that they are talking of dropping Clark. If we had a Warne, then we could take a spinner to the Oval. But we don't. Leave Hauritz out. We don't need him. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

  • Amit on August 12, 2009, 10:29 GMT

    Stuart Clark should play at Oval, he has provided the sharpness in bowling attack of kangaroos. Tight line imposed so much pressure on English batting, their middle order looks weak in absence of KP and Bopara failing again. If Australians performs as they did in Leeds, Ashes trophy is waiting for them.

  • Rob on August 12, 2009, 9:12 GMT

    God I can't believe the selectors are thinking of dropping clarke again... It's laughable, they're a circus act.

    What's more is why Phil Jaques has been left out of any selection discussion. Why Shane (Ouch my back, hamstring, calf, ankle, knee, neck, heart) Watson got the job ahead of him is crazy, not even taking a back up opener, is ridiculous and Cox's claim that they consider Watson, Hussey and Haddin as back up openers also goes to show how much of a circus the whole selection team really is...

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