South Africa v Australia, 1st Test, Cape Town November 8, 2011

Cummins could debut - Clarke

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Michael Clarke, the Australia captain, has not ruled out a debut for teenage fast bowler Pat Cummins in Wednesday's first Test in Cape Town. However, Peter Siddle looms as the likely candidate to work with Mitchell Johnson and Ryan Harris in a three-man pace attack, with Trent Copeland the other contender.

Australia were waiting until after training on Tuesday to make their decision, but they were hampered by the weather, with the Newlands pitch covered amid heavy afternoon rain and strong wind. The famous tablecloth of white cloud spilled well down Table Mountain's slopes until the mountain was invisible, and similar conditions are expected for the first day of the game.

That could bring swing into play, and Clarke has been impressed by the shape away that Cummins has been finding in the nets and during the limited-overs portion of the trip. If he debuts, Cummins would be Australia's second-youngest Test player of all time. While he didn't take part in the tour match in Potchefstroom, that would not rule him out of contention, Clarke said.

"After he played two Twenty20s and three one-dayers, I don't think he could play [in the warm-up game] to be honest," Clarke said. "I think it was smart, let's call it workload management. I have seen him bowl enough overs to know he can bowl three or four spells in a day and bowl consistently at 145-150kph so I am not bothered about that at all.

"He's certainly in consideration. He has bowled as well as he possibly can in the nets. He's bowling good pace, swinging the ball away. He's learning every day because he is still a young kid but he's got the talent. People ask if he is ready. In my opinion you don't know if anybody is ready until you give them a crack. I think he's one of those kids who has got the natural talent, he now just needs an opportunity. But is he in our best XI for these conditions? That is what the selectors need to discuss."

Under Australia's new system, Clarke is officially one of those selectors, and he picked the medium-pacer Copeland for all three Tests on the recent tour of Sri Lanka. Copeland did not take a wicket in Potchefstroom last week and rarely looked threatening; a man who hovers around the 125kph mark is a friendlier option than the faster bowlers.

Siddle was quick and aggressive in the tour game, in which he collected five wickets for the match, and he picked up 4 for 91 in Australia's last Test, in Colombo. But last time Australia visited South Africa, Andrew McDonald played a valuable containing role with his tight lines and Clarke said that brought Copeland into the mix for this week's game.

"One of our greatest strengths in Sri Lanka was having Copes who could contain runs, and bowl tight, in good areas," he said. "The quicks know their role is not just running in and trying to take a wicket every time you bowl. Sometimes on good batting wickets you need to bowl in disciplined areas and build pressure, especially against good teams and South Africa have a good batting line-up.

"Copes did it really well in Sri Lanka but Ryan Harris did it too. Mitch bowled beautifully in the practice game, had the ball swinging back and bowled quite tight; they didn't score many runs off him. And Patty Cummins, anyone that bowls 150kph and swings the ball away from the right-hander or into a leftie, you will find it hard to get away as well."

What is not in doubt is the structure of Australia's attack, with three fast men to accompany the offspinner Nathan Lyon. The batting order picks itself, with Usman Khawaja the man to miss out.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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  • Meety on November 10, 2011, 5:05 GMT

    @David Ly - I think McDermott would benefit from some short form exposure Internationally rather than Tests. He really has only just got a spot in the Shield side, whereas it is his 2nd year in List As. @RandyOZ - I think he'll do OK as long as he has got the habit of straying onto leg stump out of the system. If so, I think he can build pressure quite well. I hope he has full speed - he'll need it! Also, you forgot to mention Cutting in your list of up & coming pacers!!!!!!!!

  • dummy4fb on November 9, 2011, 10:32 GMT

    @Meety, lol, yea I've forgot about Cutting, based on his SS form he should certainly be in contention with a baggy green along with possibly McDermott whose been impressive recently but probably a long way away from presenting Australia, but still the point is ..Australia have some great talent going around with potential to break through this aging side with the likes of Ponting, Hussey, Haddin still in the side. I mean it shouldn't based on their age, but just as long as they perform, it should be okay. But still, bring in some fresh faces (Marsh, Copeland(to an extent) and Lyon can justify this)

  • Gordo85 on November 9, 2011, 10:15 GMT

    He needs to prove himself to more than just his captain what about the four other selectors?

  • RandyOZ on November 9, 2011, 10:01 GMT

    @Meety, Sids just got picked. I hope you are right but I think he could get carted around here...

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  • Meety on November 9, 2011, 7:19 GMT

    IMO - there is something about Siddle that has improved since the Ashes. I'd like to see his pace consistantly over the 145kph mark, but I think Craig Mac is having a big (& good), influence on him. I think Siddle should NEVER be selected for our ODI side EVER, but I think he is worth a look in Tests as he does have heart & can trouble batsmen with speed, IF Craig Mac has added swing & better control to his resume, he is a test bowler thru & thru. @David Ly - yep, pretty good comments. Although as what happens with most non-QLDers (asumption), you forgot Cutting! He is ripping it up this season & he should be the next untried bowler brought into the test team. It is such a shame he was injured last year. @zenboomerang - same as with the comment above - no Cutting???

  • Okakaboka on November 9, 2011, 5:14 GMT

    Okay anti Siddle fans....fair enough...but if you drop Siddle then JOHNSTON must be dropped as well. Siddle has had a better bowling average than Johnston over the last 2-3 years. Copeland can only tie up an end on these tracks.....and as someone pointed out....McDonald did a brilliant job on the last tour. He is just as capable with the ball and he can bat...so where is he??? Pity our idiot selectors left our second best bowler (Pattinson) back in Australia.

  • dummy4fb on November 9, 2011, 5:01 GMT

    I've never really been a fan of Siddle... I mean he was probably the best bowler for Australia during the Ashes (with the exception of Harris who got injured) but that doesn't necessarily mean he should be in the test side. He just got lucky that there was a host of injuries that didn't lead to him being dropped. There are other bowlers in my opinion that should be in the side or at least in the squad. (Butterworth, Faulkner, Pattinson, George). If they are willing to risk Cummins, why not? I feel for the kid..having all this publicity and expectations on him to deliver. Go with the logical option, selectors.. but wait..I don't think that's possible (no offence with the new chairmen of selectors)...

  • zenboomerang on November 9, 2011, 4:33 GMT

    @straight_drive4...@RandyOZ... Agree with all your picks... Though George can be inconsistent... Butterworth best bowler last season... Coulter-Nile seems in vg form at present... Lots of good choices in SS at present... Problem is we don't see the Test players play SS so no direct comparisons can be made... Think Argus wants more SS played by all players so true form can be compared...

  • longrun on November 9, 2011, 4:07 GMT

    siddle has had his chance and delivered little. give someone else a go. glad to hear people mentioning peter george - must have scratched hilditches car cas i can't work out what he's done wrong to fall off the radar. Anyway - throw cummins in at the deep end and see how he goes, why wait for the stars to align if he's bowling well now

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