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September 15, 2011
Australia's captain Michael Clarke believes Peter Siddle can overturn his habit of bowling short, built up during his four years in international cricket, and revert to the fuller length he needs to be a dangerous fast bowler against Sri Lanka in the third Test in Colombo.
Admired as a hard-working, hostile paceman, Siddle has not always been an example of subtlety, and was often used by former captain Ricky Ponting as an enforcer in the vein of Merv Hughes. In Sri Lanka such methods could lead to long, draining stints in the field against the likes of Kumar Sangakkara, in his 100th Test, Mahela Jayawardene and Tillakaratne Dilshan.
To that end, Australia's pacemen have employed a disciplined line and a fuller length against the hosts, looking for edges, lbws and to have them bowled, with conspicuous success. However the absence of Ryan Harris means it will be Siddle who now has to look for swing and seam, rather than the bounce and intimidation with which he has generally preferred to take wickets.
"All of our bowlers have been working on their length since they've been here," Clarke said. "That's something that Craig McDermott [Australia's bowling coach] has certainly made very clear - with the new ball we needed to be bowling fuller, we needed to be giving ourselves a chance, and Sidds [Siddle] has done that.
"I've watched him bowl at every net session he's had and he's definitely improved his length. I think there were a few reasons why he didn't perform how he would have liked in the practice game [Siddle went wicketless]. He's had two weeks since then to train with Stuart Karppinen [the fitness coach], who has made it very clear he wanted him fitter and stronger, and to bowl a lot more in the nets to work on his length.
"Rhino [Harris] has got the ball to come back in and he's bowled blokes through the gate, got lbws. Sidds can swing the new ball away, but one of his greatest strengths and what he does naturally is bring the ball back in off the pitch to the right-handers or take it away from the left-handers."
Clarke, however, did not rule out a shorter-pitched attack from Siddle and Mitchell Johnson, given the right circumstances.
"The other thing Sidds has is, he can bowl 150kph and can crank it up. If there's not much in the wicket he's got a very good bouncer so he can push the batters back," Clarke said. "It brings in other ways to take wickets as well. Not only can Mitch bowl at good pace, but Sidds can as well, and if there's not much in the wicket there might be a few more bouncers than we've seen [so far]."
Johnson, too, has something to prove, having struggled for wickets and rhythm in the series. Unable to produce the inswing of his pomp, Johnson has concentrated on angling the ball across the right-handers. But he is yet to bowl the sort of hair-raising spell that has kept him in the Australia team, as an occasional matchwinner, since his debut against Sri Lanka in 2007.
"I think Mitch's role has been similar throughout the on- dayers and the Tests," Clarke said. "There hasn't been much swing around, but he's got extra pace and being left-handed brings in variation [to the attack]. If there's swing around he can swing the ball in, but he's also got a beautiful angle to take it across the right-handers whether it is reversing or not.
"It also gives us the option for somebody to reverse the ball into the left-handers. Mitch has just got to keep doing what he is doing. I thought he bowled really well in the last Test without much luck - a few balls bounced short of me at second slip, there were a few play and misses. I think everybody needs to continue to do what they're doing. We spoke about discipline and execution, and it is going to take every single one of us doing that at the highest level to have success in this Test match."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Daniel Brettig
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Plays of the day from the fourth ODI between Australia and South Africa at the MCG