Injury lay-off costs Bollinger his place
A lack of game time has cost Doug Bollinger his spot for the first Ashes Test despite him being Australia's most potent bowler of the past 12 months. Peter Siddle won the final place in the XI on his pre-injury reputation, but the same set of guidelines did not apply to Bollinger.
Bollinger picked up 47 wickets at 22.02 in his past 10 matches but the numbers were not enough to regain his position after hurting his stomach in the first Test in India. While Siddle, who has appeared in 17 Tests, has completed a solid workout in the domestic and limited-overs sides, Bollinger was limited to one four-day fixture for New South Wales.
"Lack of bowling [for Bollinger] over the last few weeks has been as much to do with it as anything," Ricky Ponting said as he announced his side. "Just the fact this line-up had good success in South Africa and at times in England last series. We feel that [Ben] Hilfenhaus and Siddle are very well advanced in their preparations for this series and [Mitchell] Johnson has a lot of cricket under his belt. We think this attack is good enough to take 20 wickets at the Gabba."
Johnson has the most victims for Australia over the past 12 months with 52, but Bollinger's strike-rate of a wicket every 41.7 balls is seven better than Johnson's. Siddle has not played a Test since January after suffering a back stress fracture that kept him out of tours to New Zealand, England and India.
For the past two years the Australians have raved about the Johnson-Siddle-Hilfenhaus pace attack because of its stunning work in the opening two Tests of the 2008-09 series in South Africa. The trio also led the overall wicket list during the 2009 Ashes but it wasn't enough to set up a series victory.
Ponting briefly considered a four-man pace attack for this game but quickly changed his mind when he saw the pitch. The surface is light green and Ponting said it looked like a normal Gabba wicket, but he was cagey when asked if he would still bat first. "We will wait and see what happens," he said.
The forecast cloudy conditions and humidity will add to the dangers offered by the wicket, but Ponting still wanted the safety of a spinner and Tasmania's Xavier Doherty will make his debut. The bowlers are expected to control the match and even though the Australians have had trouble on seaming surfaces lately, Ponting believed England would have more difficulty handling the extra bounce.
"History suggests that every touring team coming to Australia generally finds here and Perth the places harder to adjust and adapt to," he said. "England have been here a while and in Hobart last week it seamed around a little bit. But history suggests we handle these conditions very, very well and opposition teams struggled a bit." Australia have not lost a game at the Gabba since they were beaten by West Indies in 1988-89.
Michael Clarke batted strongly in the nets and completed a fielding session as well to secure his place. "I've got to wait till tomorrow morning to see how I pull up, but it felt good today," he said during training.
Ponting said there was no danger in using Clarke, who needed injections after a recurrence of his persistent back problem two weeks ago. "I wouldn't have thought there would be a risk involved," he said. "It's a big game for us at the start of the series and you don't want to go with a cloud hanging over anybody. That was why he was asked to do as much batting as he did yesterday and again today. We couldn't afford to leave any stone unturned as far as preparation is concerned."
Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo