The Ashes 2010-11 November 20, 2010

Australia's spin cycle claims another victim


Australia's selectors have burned another spinner and given two more a chance to feel the heat. Nathan Hauritz's sacking has left Xavier Doherty feeling as buoyant and fortunate as Hauritz did with his catapult two years ago. Doherty will be the ninth Test spin experiment since Shane Warne retired in 2007 and the No.8 Steven Smith is also in the 13-man squad for Thursday's first Ashes Test.

Hauritz has been the most successful of those on trial, with 58 wickets at 36.22 in 16 matches, performing a role without delivering regular victories. The emergence of Doherty, a 27-year-old only recently entrenched in Tasmania's Sheffield Shield team, has forced a late change to the selectors' long-held plans. If Australia pick a specialist spinner at the Gabba it will be Doherty wearing his new cap.

When Hauritz was told to play for New South Wales at the Gabba instead of stay with Australia's limited-overs team at the end of October the chairman Andrew Hilditch said: "This is seen as the best preparation for Nathan ahead of a very busy summer." Two weeks later Hilditch praised Hauritz for having an "extremely good" record in Australia over the past 12 months. Today he said: "He can consider himself unlucky." He certainly can.

The start of the season hasn't been anywhere near as busy as Hilditch promised Hauritz, who has delivered only 58.4 overs in five games. In his first Shield fixture he was given 12 balls and in this week's bowl-off with Doherty he rolled his arm over six times in three days.

Doherty picked up two wickets in 21 overs for Tasmania while Jason Krejza, the side's other offspinner, was handed 10 overs. The clinching moment for Ricky Ponting, if he hadn't already been swayed by his Tasmanian team-mate, was Doherty's bowled-around-the-legs of Simon Katich.

Having stuck with Hauritz through times of trouble and moderate success, the selectors have let him go for the series they had been preparing him for. Marcus North and Michael Hussey were retained to keep faith in the year-old plan, but Doherty comes in on a left-arm hunch. A steady Test bowler has been replaced by a modest first-class operator. The use-and-abuse spin cycle continues.

The time for alterations was before the tour of India, giving new players two Tests to get comfortable, but the selectors' hands stayed steady until the shakes of the past week. It has been a spooky time with the main men spluttering all over the country while England's preparations purr. Still, one debutant for such an important encounter is better than the two or three threatened by Monday's bulging 17-man squad.

After the double failures of Usman Khawaja and Callum Ferguson in Hobart no batting changes were necessary despite the unconvincing nature of the incumbent line-up. Succeeding in the days before a side is named is the most pressure a young player can have away from a Test match, and Khawaja and Ferguson missed out two weeks in a row. At least Hussey and North know how to succeed, justifying another chance. Given all the circumstances, the side is almost the right one.

However, the treatment of Hauritz continues the trend of spinners being treated poorly after Warne's exit. Only Brad Hogg, the second of the eight replacements, has left in a happy mood. Unlike Stuart MacGill, Beau Casson, Cameron White, Krejza, Bryce McGain and now Hauritz.

Smith is the only other one of the group who remains in favour, but he is not yet good enough as a batsman to be in the top six, as displayed by his first-ball dismissal to Chris Tremlett in Hobart today, when he left an offcutter heading for his stumps. He is not ready as a specialist bowler either. A gifted player, he could develop into an all-round genius, but at the moment his selection as a bits-and-pieces man for such an important series is strange. So was White's elevation in India two years ago.

Hauritz is disappointed and Doherty and Smith are ecstatic. The fresh pair need to know those feelings haven't lasted long for Australia's spinners over the past four years. Steve O'Keefe, the in-form Australia A left-arm orthodox, could be next to join the queue.

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Rajaram on November 22, 2010, 18:25 GMT

    Brilliant, aggressive selection! Trump Card Xavier Doherty. The Poms are shaken. Australia has demonstrated clear intent to win.

  • John on November 22, 2010, 8:02 GMT

    @ thebarmyarmy, here are a few stats you should probably look at. Watson averages 40 with the bat and 28 with the ball. (His batting average is going up, up, up, and his bowling average is dropping). Stuart Broad averages 28 with the bat and 34 with the ball. Graeme Swann, 25 with the bat and 26 with the ball. Talk about being able to bowl, what a champion bowling average Broad has. Quite obviously the next Curtly Ambrose. But wait, he recently scored 169 against a Pakistan bowling attack which may or may not have been attempting to lose. So he is not only the next Curtly Ambrose, but a combination of Ambrose combined with a right handed Gary Sobers. Absolute legend.

  • Dummy4 on November 22, 2010, 0:00 GMT

    I am not a Hautitz fan but Hilditch seems to have one rule for spinners and one rule for the middle order. Hussey and North have been below per for a long time and stay while Hsutitz, who performed well last summer, and was coming back off injury in India has been dumped based on two matches in a country where Warne averaged in the 40's. Hilditch needs to realize the spinners we have now cannot nail the role Warne had. They are stock bowlers. They will rarely win tests for you and more best need to be put on the quicks to do this, especially on true wickets like those at home.

  • Jonathan on November 21, 2010, 6:00 GMT

    If they're just picking Doherty to get Kevin Pietersen, just bowl Michael Clarke to him when he first comes out. India did that with Yuvraj, and it worked wonders. If Michael wants a bowl, then bowl him at Pietersen. I've got no problems with that. And if he doesn't want to bowl cause of his back, then he shouldn't be playing! Simple as that!!!

  • Paul on November 21, 2010, 5:00 GMT

    Land147 said 'Watson is a better allrounder than anyone England has'

    Totaly disagree. Id rather have Broad or Swann anyday. Least them 2 can bowl.

  • Dummy4 on November 21, 2010, 1:20 GMT

    2008/2009 - Doherty played 2 matches for 1 Wicket at 87.00, 2009/2010 - Doherty got 12 wickets at 24 in 3 shield games and so far this year 3 matches for 11 wickets at 27- These are solid figures and especially the last 2 years but still its 6 matches for 23 wickets (less then 4 a match) at about 25 . I think he has potential and was definatly an option but I think O'Keefe who has similar figures the last 2 yrs and averages over 50 with the bat would have been a better option . As for Smith he isnt anywhere near test standard and Hauritz was unlucky

  • Dummy4 on November 20, 2010, 18:28 GMT

    I've never seen this Doherty bowl, but I just checked out his stats. Despite his limited over stats being acceptable, his first class average with the ball is a shade under 50! As an English fan, I'm definitely not going to lose sleep over this guy..

  • Dummy4 on November 20, 2010, 17:45 GMT

    Too much pressure after a poor series in India , made Hauritz loose his confidence.He shouldnt have been criticized so much for his performance in India, as nearly all visiting spinners have struggled in India.Also Indians are best players of spin bowling, so Hauritz would have fared much better against England. I think Australia made a mistake by excluding him.

  • Anthony on November 20, 2010, 15:01 GMT

    does anyone know why David Hussey hasn't been considered for tests?, he has over 11,000 runs at 55 ish

  • John on November 20, 2010, 14:31 GMT

    Why are so many fans suggesting Australia should go in to the Gabba test with 4 quicks plus Watson? Watson just took 5 wickets in the NSW-Tasmania game, including Ricky Ponting. The one area where Australia has an edge over England is that Watson is a better allrounder than anyone England has. An extra pace bowler is just going to stand about doing nothing. I think if the selectors had been able to wait until after the Aus A game with England they'd have picked O'Keefe, but having committed to Doherty and Hauritz they have to play one of them. Leaving out a spinner almost never works; remember when Australia last did that? It was the Oval test of 2009, which England won with 8 wickets from Swann, while Stuart Clark was almost invisible as fourth seamer. Whatever else the selectors have got wrong, I don't expect them to make that mistake this time around. Picking Smith as a #6 bat and spinner weakens both positions. To me, the only decision is which of Bolly and Siddle will play.

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