The Ashes 2010-11 November 14, 2010

Injured Clarke and batting form concern Australia

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Michael Clarke's back and the form of the batsmen are Australia's biggest issues ahead of the first Ashes squad announcement in Sydney on Monday. Clarke's long-standing disc problem flared in his century for New South Wales and he winced in pain during his second-innings 39, which secured a draw for the Blues on Saturday.

Clarke has dismissed the complaint as minor, but his reactions and the speed of his running showed it was serious. It is unlikely he will be risked for New South Wales against Tasmania this week, but at least he knows he is in form.

Apart from Marcus North, Clarke is the only Australia batsman to own a century in the domestic competition this summer. Since returning from India, North has first-class scores of 10, 101, 19 and 1, while Michael Hussey managed just three runs in two Sheffield Shield innings against South Australia. Hussey did produce an ODI half-century against Sri Lanka, but he has registered only 112 runs in his past six Test innings. Both Western Australians have strong supporters in the selection panel.

The opener Shane Watson got starts of 20 and 15 against Victoria while Brad Haddin finished that game strongly with a patient and unbeaten 61. In Hobart Ricky Ponting collected 32 and 5 during a match occurring at the same time as England's batsmen, particularly Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss, were running into strong form.

While his team-mates struggled to find their touch in the domestic arena, Simon Katich hadn't even made it that far due to a thumb broken in India. Katich turned out for his grade club Randwick-Petersham on Saturday and scored 94, which was a promising sign, but the intensity can't be compared to what he will face at the Gabba on November 25. His next step is to play for the Blues in their Shield game at the SCG on Wednesday.

Australian selectors have been reluctant to include extra batsmen in their home squads unless they are covering for injured men. If Clarke's fitness is already a significant concern Usman Khawaja and Callum Ferguson are the most likely candidates. Khawaja, who toured England with the Test squad during the winter, has the stronger claims due to his 339 first-class runs at 84.75, which put him second on the domestic list behind Andrew McDonald.

The players have another round of Shield matches this week - and an Australia A game against England - but the performances will come too late to influence the selectors for Brisbane. Cricket Australia's marketing commitments mean the team will be named on Monday, 10 days before the opening Test. Andrew Hilditch, the selection chairman, will announce the squad at the Sydney Opera House in a free event, which will give an indication of how much local interest is in the series.

Hilditch spoke last week about wanting only four fast bowlers in the squad, but the excellent return of Ryan Harris in Hobart over the past week may convince him to pick a 13-man outfit. Queensland's Harris, who is back after knee surgery, took a career-best nine wickets for the game and had the bonus of starring in front of Ponting.

Mitchell Johnson remains Hilditch's preferred man as attack leader and Ben Hilfenhaus and Nathan Hauritz are the other bowling certainties. Peter Siddle is fit but not yet firing after a back stress fracture, but he has been a favourite of the panel over the past two years. He has 13 domestic wickets in three matches, including four against the Blues.

Like Katich, Doug Bollinger played in Sydney grade cricket on Saturday, taking 1 for 30 in his first game since hurting his stomach in the Mohali Test. It's not ideal preparation for facing England, but Bollinger is not alone in being under-done.

Likely squad Shane Watson, Simon Katich, Ricky Ponting (capt), Michael Clarke, Michael Hussey, Marcus North, Brad Haddin (wk), Mitchell Johnson, Nathan Hauritz, Doug Bollinger, Ben Hilfenhaus, Peter Siddle, Ryan Harris.

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Deuwl on November 15, 2010, 2:49 GMT

    Aussies need to get realistic about this. The team hasn't performed too bad concerning the batting as the hype from media and other sources indicate. The main problems with the batting are the lower middle order: Hussey & North. I believe North has failed to impress me as a consistent batsmen at this level. I think its past time we give the likes of Ferguson or Khawaja a go.

    Bowling: Our bowling is what is the main problem. Johnson is just too inconsistent and can't swing the bowl. We lost to India recently due to the main fact their bowlers swung the bowl and ours didn't apart from Hilfenhaus. The bowling needs to be revamped with Siddle, Hilfenhaus and Bollinger + spinner (I don't like Hauritz, but I don't have a clue who can replace him)

    My side: S.Watson, S.Katich, R.Ponting, M.Clarke, U.Khawaja, C.Ferguson, Haddin, Harris, Hilfenhaus, Bollinger (yes I wouldn't play a spinner in the 1st Test as I don't think we have a spinner of Test level in Australia at the moment)

  • Meety on November 15, 2010, 2:13 GMT

    @Simon Jessup - well said matey, but you musn't say anything negative about India's #1 ranking, it will end in tears! @outsiders - maybe right about North & Hussey, but Punter won't be dropped unless he gets about 6 ducks & a series aggreagate of less then 20 runs. @phoenixsteve - good on you! I hope your dissappointed by the end of the Sydney Test though!!! @ashes61 - the pessimism is that many people believe the best side won't get selected, because the selection panel are a bit daft! @Wato_90 - agreed except O'Keefe can't even get a game with NSW (I am a big fan of his).

  • MasterBlaster74 on November 15, 2010, 1:10 GMT

    So the Australian Ashes squad was announced today. Usman Khwaja deserves selection, but look what the selectors have done to the career of Phillip Hughes. Hang your heads in Shame selectors. A guy scores 89 of less balls against NZ and then gets dropped. Hilditch must go.

  • Andy_New_York on November 15, 2010, 1:03 GMT

    @Simon Jessup, "I am not sure India has won any series outside subcontinent". FYI, India has won last series in England, New Zealand, West Indies. The only countries outside subcontinent, they did not win their last series are South africa and Australia(courtsey Buknor). Please update your cricket knowledge.

  • Marcio on November 15, 2010, 0:22 GMT

    I find some of the comments about Phillip Hughes illogical, to say the least. He has an unorthodox style. So, what happens when he gets out playing an unorthodox stroke? "Hughes dismissal confirmed concerns that his unorthodox style." (that's what the media report said of his last NSW game) How silly is that! When Michael Clarke gets out people don't write that his orthodox style got him out, and he averages fewer runs! Hugges averages 51 in tests and 55 in first class games. He is a very successful batsman. If you bat unorthodox you get out unorthodox, if you bat orthodox you get out orthodox. Doh! Runs are runs, no matter how you score them.

  • srivatsan on November 15, 2010, 0:17 GMT

    @ashes61 As an Aussie fan I'm realistic not pessimistic (or) optimistic. This team has zero qualities that made Australian team of the 90's. I think they need a major purge and it will come after they lose Ashes (2-1 if Ponting/Watto and Katich score, I don't have any doubts whatsoever that Clarke/Hussey will score or 3-0 if batting fails. Even a 5-0 is a remote possibility (assuming none of the 5 tests is not washed out).

  • dummy4fb on November 15, 2010, 0:10 GMT

    So Mcdonald gets 2 hundreds and we are talking about 3 fella's from NSW? Am i watching a different game? Test team should be this Watson, M Hussey (make him open as he has 10,00 fist class runs there and say last chance) Ponting, Clarke, North, Mcdonald, Haddin, Johnson, Hilfenhaus, Harris, Siddle, Hughes 12th man. Clarke and North can spin enough for the Gabba. make Hauritz go get some wickets ready for Adelaide, melb and syd. Hussey fails, play hughes in perth.

  • wato_90 on November 14, 2010, 22:46 GMT

    First of all, this talk of doherty playing test cricket needs to stop. He only became a regular first class player for Tasmania this year, and still has a career average of 40. Krezya cant get a spot before him and becomes redundant. Smith is merely a batsmen who can bowl spin, a bit like White however I do not think his form warrants a spot at the moment. I think O'keefe is the future however need more first class experience. Hughes isnt really firing for NSW and has only ever opened and thats the one position in the Australian team that seems to be settled with Ponting also number 3 (with his captaincy not spot having question marks). The ideal team would be Watson, Katich, Ponting, Clarke, Khawaja, White, Haddin (I still believe Wade should be his understudy not Paine), Hauritz, Hilfhenhaus, Harris, Bollinger with a back up bastmen of Ferguson, back up keeper of Wade, back up all rounder McDonald and back up bowlers of Johnson, Siddle and perhaps O'Keefe.

  • ashes61 on November 14, 2010, 20:30 GMT

    Well, as a Pom reading this thread, I feel like an intruder at a stanger's funeral! Very strange remarks to read, coming from proud Aussies just before an Ashes series. Although the England side has improved and is certainly better organised than in 2006/07, and many great Aussies have retired, I think your pessimism is a bit premature. The fact remains that Oz are playing in front of their own crowds, in familiar conditions and in temperatures which any Pom will find tough. AND Ponting's men have a great incentive - winning back the urn. (No disrespect to India fans here when I say that competing for ICC rankings simply doesn't compare - nor does ANY W/Cup).

    Let's hope for a great rubber - it should at least be closer than last time over there! Respective preparations for each team & early media hype notwithstanding, all things point to a close tussle. Amazed at commercial reasons behind early Brisbane selection, though - but that's modern sport, I suppose. C'mon you Poms!

  • dummy4fb on November 14, 2010, 20:22 GMT

    Stop putting blokes in based on what they have done in the past, start living in the now! Swap one Hussey for another Hussey and we will see the younger perform brilliantly, if Australian selectors had of used younger players and trialed new blood on a regular occasion we wouldnt be sitting here wondering who to put in a team when half the squad loses form or gets injured, the squad should be something like: Watson, Katich, Hughes, Khawaja, Fergurson, D.Hussey, White, Payne, Harris, Starc, Siddle, Hilfenhaus, Bollinger, Smith. thats looking a lot better than the current squad, maybe few ins and outs but at least give the future a go.

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