Australia v England, 2nd Test, Adelaide, 5th day December 7, 2010

Australian selectors face tough calls


Replacing Simon Katich for the third Test is the easy part for Australia. Deciding what to do with the rest of the side in Perth is the difficult bit.

Marcus North, Xavier Doherty, Doug Bollinger and Peter Siddle will be wondering if they still have a spot when the squad is named on Friday. Ricky Ponting and Andrew Hilditch discussed the make-up of the unit after the innings loss in Adelaide on Tuesday and had to decide how many changes to make - and whether any of them would make a difference.

The simplest decision surrounds the new opener. Phillip Hughes, who scored 86 not out in his last Test in March, is the leading candidate to come in for Katich on December 16, while Usman Khawaja would also be a capable choice. Every other issue is much more murky.

Ponting's experiment with Doherty failed over two Tests, with the left-arm spinner taking three wickets at 102 and causing more trouble for the scorers than any batsman. Nathan Hauritz is in form after career-best figures for New South Wales last week, but returning to him so soon would require a serious selection back-flip.

Steven Smith, the legspinning allrounder, took four wickets at the SCG on Tuesday, but he is not yet qualified at Test level as a batsman or a bowler. There may be no other choice than to go with Hauritz, who is a superior bowler at home than away. The confusion over the quality of the slow men will probably provide North with one more chance, despite him scoring 22 and 26 and going wicket-less with his offies in Adelaide.

"He'll be a bit disappointed with his week's work here," Ponting said of North. "I still believe that he's got great value to the team."

The fast bowling is another huge issue after the attack managed only 16 of 30 possible wickets in the past two Tests, and 10 of those came on the opening day of the series. Ponting said Doug Bollinger "hit the wall" during England's 5 for 620 declared, so the left-armer will be the first quick out. The step up in class that the tourists provided showed Bollinger was workmanlike rather than exceptional, and Australia currently have two superior men in that regard in Ryan Harris and Siddle.

Harris was Australia's best bowler in the second Test, taking 2 for 84, and will be a starter in Perth as long as his wonky knee holds up. Siddle's reputation has diminished significantly since he grabbed six wickets on the first day in Brisbane. Since then he hasn't managed one breakthrough in 54 overs and will be vulnerable if Mitchell Johnson and Ben Hilfenhaus have responded well to their Adelaide axing. The sad fact for Australia is that these men remain the best options despite their impotency over the past fortnight.

Ponting spoke before his discussion with Hilditch and made it clear that he didn't have a say in who would be picked. He did provide a glowing reference for Hughes, 22, who was dropped for the first time during the 2009 Ashes when he struggled with Andrew Flintoff's short balls.

"I'll be surprised if it's not him who comes in," Ponting said. "We know what his international record is like."

Hughes scored 81 for Australia A against England last month and was 80 not out in a one-dayer for New South Wales on Saturday. But he was dismissed for 4 against South Australia in the Sheffield Shield today. "He's got a few runs under his belt lately," Ponting said. "He's probably the first cab off the rank."

Whatever the selectors decide, Australia face a serious overhaul to avoid further Ashes humiliation at home over the final three Tests. "No doubt it's a bad loss for us, there's no hiding that fact," Ponting said. "I think they out-batted us, out-bowled us and out-fielded us in the entire game." If England continue to fire, any Australian changes are unlikely to have anything more than a cosmetic effect.

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo

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  • Michael Ponnudurai on December 13, 2010, 7:09 GMT

    @mrGupta: Please note that in the 2006-07 series match in Perth Aus Vs India, the pitch was the slowest. If your memory is not helping, sift through reports and you will find that India won because Aus played its first innings prettly badly and the Indian batsmen scored well because the pitch was one of the slowest that WACA has seen. Let us see how the pitches turn out in the 2010 SA series and how Indian batsmen fare in that series, and come back and do an analyses

  • Andrew on December 10, 2010, 0:21 GMT

    @ Green_and_Gold - Possible v Probable matches were played alot 60 years ago. Given it is not as easy to select a team at the moment - fair few candidates in varying degrees of form, a 3 match series in October would of been way better then a tour of India & 1 day series v Sri Lanka. @5wombats - mate in the end of the day the past is the past. Yes we had heaps of "All Stars" leave the squad from 2006 onwards. The problems I was discussing are about the now. I agree the foresight by Cricket Oz & selectors is appalling. I couldn't beleive we'd play a 2 Test series in India in the lead up to the Ashes. What Indian pitches would offer Oz as preparation for what was in liklihood going to have been a Green Top was beyond me. We more or less gave away our home advantage. Meanwhile the Poms had been very astute in their planning for 2 years - had heaps of motivation. Tough seeing all those greats retire, but we need to move on - there is an Ashes still to be won .... or lost.

  • ANTHONY on December 9, 2010, 22:21 GMT

    I've got new scoring system based on performance. Very much like school, since this is how the aussies are going. Base it on wickets taken: England 20/20, you get a gold star! Australia 6/20, you get to repeat grade 2.

  • Justin on December 9, 2010, 13:55 GMT

    Anyone thinking Australia Vs Australia A test match (or 3/4 day game) - lets see how some of these young blokes go against the oldies. Could be interesting.

  • Animesh on December 9, 2010, 13:51 GMT

    Bring in Hughes for Katich, Stuart Clarke for Bollinger, Callum Ferguson for North and finally Nathan Hauritz for Doherty. It's been quite an ordeal for Hughes and this is it. Give him his well deserved chance. He's been playing exceptionally recently and his test record his phenomenal. Sometimes, I feel the Aussie selectors miss out on some would-be-great players. For instance, Brad Hodge, a blistering double on debut and a career average of 55 but still got only 6 test matches.The same is turning out to be with Hughes. He was playing quite well when he was dropped from the squad. 2 tons and 2 fifties in 13 innings with an average of 51. Now that speaks a lot about his temperament and technique. He might have struggled against short ones but that's not a reason to rule out somebody who's playing so well. Katich must feel that it's his responsibility now to make way for the new blood. He has served Australia for a long time and this is the perfect time for him to bid adieu.

  • Dummy4 on December 9, 2010, 11:44 GMT

    watson should open he has played the best in that role...the general consensus is hughes as the other opener who could provide england teh window to get ricky ponying who i doubt has any real ability left after the windies hit him in the arm...both ponting and hughes are suspect against the bouncer...north seems tobe finished and it is best to play a batman in that haddin and than play four fast men...two tried and trusted and two new ones...the only spinner to take wickets aginst england is okeefe and he bowled thru bat and pad superbly against pakistan...or play cameron white at seven and four fast bowlers...tryout talent in the next test and than select a permanent winning side for the remaining two tests... the bigger test could bowler selection,,,harris, bollinger, copeland , tait...bowl tait in four over spells or try nannes for bollinger

  • Martin on December 9, 2010, 11:15 GMT

    @landl47 - once again good comments. @Meety - less so. Australia's "problems" have been caused by great players being great for a long time. Lucky them to have and enjoy such great players. But these champions kept rising talent out of the team. There has been a lack of foresight by CA which has resulted in the predicament faced by Australia on the pitch now. The talent, skill and toughness that we always associate with Australia are notable by their absence. Meanwhile, England have profitted by being hammered 5-0 in 2006. Lots of soul-searching in English cricket circles and lots of positive action re; training and preparation has produced a decent team that are pretty hard to beat - witness in Cardiff 2009, Brisbane and earlier in South Africa. Lots of Aus fans missed the significance of that tied series between SA & Eng - where Eng played quite well and only lost one test on a pitch specifically prepared for SA bowlers. Current Aus bowlers not in same class as SA.

  • Dummy4 on December 9, 2010, 7:20 GMT

    I Agree that Shaun Marsh should have a go opening but i'd drop Marcus North move Shane Watson down the order and bring in Phillip Hughes to open with Marsh. The bowling places are more difficult. Ben Hilfenhaus and Ryan Harris have been the most accurate fast bowlers and move the ball. Ponting has great faith in Peter Siddle but he's too inconsistent for my liking. I'd be handing a cap to Chris Swann. He might be in his 30's but he's tall accurate and swings the ball. The spinner is also difficult-i think giving Jason Krezja another chance might not be unreasonable. Xavier Doherty just bowled too quickly without enough variation in the tests so far . I suspect the selectors will go for Nathan Hauritz again though.He's improved but has never looked a potential match winner to me

  • John on December 9, 2010, 6:12 GMT

    I've seen some nonsense in my time, but some of the stuff being said here defies belief. Tait... Nannes.... Bracken.... Stuart Clark... one guy had Australia taking a side into Perth with 3 bowlers! The fact is, so far England looks the better team in every respect. Australia can't just throw everybody out and pick guys who have no form at all and hope to win. Either the present players get their act together and win a game or two, or England will win and retain the Ashes. At the moment, the latter looks more likely, but cricket's a funny game. If Australia does go down, at that point they need to get rid of the old players, starting with Ponting, pick a YOUNG squad and let them grow together. It's the only way to have a good team in 3 or 4 years. Australia is in a period of decline after a great run. Face it and build for the future. They'll lose for a while, but that's how the great Aussie sides of 1990 onwards started. Time for new blood, not old blood.

  • Andrew on December 9, 2010, 5:51 GMT

    Part 7. Stuey Clark could be an option, but from what I have seen of him of late, he is only just medium pace (about Watto in speed). He could do a job of keep it tight for someone like MJ at the other end to give it a crack. Then there is also Hauritz. I think we could do without a spinner @ the WACA - all though this was an absolute failure v India 3 years ago. Hauritz is starting to take wickets, & now has a maiden 1st class century to his name. Given the uncertainty @ #6 in the batting line up - the extra bit of toughness in the tail end batting could be useful. My selections are; 8. Mitch Johnson - just run in and let it go WANG. 9. Hauritz, I don't care if he doesn't take a wicket give me an economy of 2 runs per over! 10. Harris - because he bowled fast & was our best from Adelaide. 11. Copeland - we need to win, to win need 20 wickets. This bloke is a wicket machine. If we go with 4 pacers - I would bring in Bollinger just ahead of Hilfy.

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