Australia v England, 3rd Test, Perth December 15, 2010

Australia consider full hand of quicks


Australia are considering unleashing four specialist fast bowlers to soften up England, but first Ricky Ponting has to be convinced the WACA surface will not trick him again. Ponting delayed naming his XI for Thursday's crucial third Ashes Test until he has a final look at the pitch, which is much greener than usual.

Ponting has misread this wicket before, most notably against India in 2007-08 when it looked fast but played low and slow, and had a rare discussion with the groundsman Cam Sutherland today. If Australia go with the pace quartet of Mitchell Johnson, Ryan Harris, Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus they will be flooded with options. Shane Watson's availability actually makes a speed quintet possible, while the legspinner Steven Smith is also on call.

The chances of Michael Beer, the left-arm orthodox spinner, making his debut have reduced slightly, although the hosts could quickly revert to a more traditional attack if the pitch dries out before the toss. To level the series 1-1 Australia require 20 wickets, four more than they have managed in the first two Tests.

The WACA used to be a fast-bowling Mecca and every time teams come here they expect short-pitch tactics to stir up their opponents. Australia are preparing an attempt to bounce England's top order and deliver some discomfort to the tourists, who have dominated since being dismissed for 260 on the opening day of the series. "I honestly feel the pitch conditions here are as foreign to English players as probably anywhere else in the world and hopefully we can exploit that this week," Ponting said.

It is impossible to understate the importance of this game for Australia. If they lose England will retain the Ashes and Ponting's captaincy and playing future will be on the line. He usually announces his side the day before the game but will toss and turn for another night before deciding what to do.

Western Australia, the local state side, have also been confused by the surface, which although it looks green is not always conducive to seam. Ponting is unsure whether it will play as it looks. "There's a chance of that and that's probably due to the different type of grass that's on it at the moment," he said. "It's not the thicker, coarse grass that was on the wicket the last couple of years, it's a finer leaf sort of grass.

"When you've got wickets like that the ball tends to skip off that grass rather than holding on it. That's why it's important to get a good feel of it tomorrow morning and see how hard it is, and whether there's any moisture left in the surface before we make our decision."

Hilfenhaus and Harris will be used as into-the-wind bowlers while Johnson, who has been trying to rebuild his action over the past week, will be able to charge in with the breeze. Siddle is another who will enjoy having the wind at his back if he is selected. Both Hilfenhaus and Johnson didn't bowl in the nets during the final practice session in preparation for their returns after being dropped for the Adelaide game.

Whether Siddle, who hasn't take a wicket since his six on the opening day in Brisbane, or Beer fits in is still to be determined. Ponting said Beer's inexperience would not be a factor in deciding the line-up.

"It's more so we can get the best four bowlers for us on that wicket, it's as simple as that," he said. "The fact that Michael is a debutant doesn't come into it. If he's in our four best bowlers for the wicket we see tomorrow then he'll play."

Spinners have been successful over the latter stages of Shield games in Perth this season and Ponting planned to have lunch with Beer to talk tactics. Australia have Smith to bat at No.6 and bowl as well, but the team management seems confused by all the potential options.

If he plays, Beer will be heavily involved in the second half of the game, while an extra paceman will be expected to cause more problems in the first innings. Ponting has too much to think about but must be wary about over-stocking his pace department on a surface that has bitten him before.

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Corey on December 16, 2010, 1:57 GMT

    What we are all forgetting is- Aus have dropped some easy catches at crucial times which have allowed Eng to post huge scores- which then puts pressure on our batsmen and bowlers!! We are renowned for our fielding and its been D grade. This is where Aus have been ruthless in previous years...taking all catches even half chances. Also alot of missed run out opportunities. As the saying goes thats been around for centuries- catches win matches!! Eng have held all of theres. I dont agree with the Beer selection...isnt selection for test matches meant to be the best possible players and ones that are in form? Hilditch needs to GO!! A possible Aus side for the future. 1. Hughes 2. S.Marsh 3. Kwaja 4.Clarke(step up son or leave)/ C.Lynn 5. Watson(neds to bat here as doesnt go on with starts as an opener should) 6. Ferguson(havin a good year in shield) 7. Haddin (C)/Paine 8. Hauritz 9. Johnson 10. T.Copeland 11. Hilfenhaus (we need his swing)

  • Chris on December 16, 2010, 1:57 GMT

    Lunch with beer seems like Punter's best option right now!

  • Dummy4 on December 16, 2010, 1:42 GMT

    bring back warnie!

  • Harvey on December 16, 2010, 1:27 GMT

    Why is Nielsens role not under scrutiny. In Rugby League he would have been gone months ago for a underperforming team

  • Harvey on December 16, 2010, 1:26 GMT

    If Beer doesnt play, his selection was pointless since he was selected for the apparent home ground advantage.

  • shiva on December 16, 2010, 1:19 GMT

    Alexandria, you are absolutely right ! That never occured to me. The need to take 20 wkts to win a test match is clearly misplaced. I think india should play with 11 proper batsmen, deliberately underperform in the first innings, lull SA into declaring their innings and then india should be able to chase down ANY target in the second innings with 11 quality batsmen. Genius !

  • Dummy4 on December 16, 2010, 0:56 GMT

    I am going to agree with Herbet. What happened to the days of the Australian bowling lineup causing fear for the batsmen. You don't have to worry about Johnson hitting you because most of his balls are going to be sailing through leg slip for 4 wides and the rest of them aren't quick enough to worry the best of the English lineup. Need someone with the x-factor, Tait isn't the most accurate of bowlers but he can push 155km/h same with Lee. I guess Tait being picked is out of the question as he is a South Aussie, moved to Victoria or QLD he might get a look.

  • Yatin on December 16, 2010, 0:55 GMT

    Everyone is talking about the bowling line up, this and that, but Aussie batting has been a disaster in this series so far except for Hussey and Haddin. First test was saved by those 2, Watson starts but does not carry on, Clarke looked good in 2nd innings in 2nd test. Ponting is complete disaster. Katich is out and Huges is untested quantity considering he's making comeback. Also not to forget, preparing fast track and backfire big time as well with Anderson, Finn, Tremlett almost certain to play. Finn and Tremlett can extract bounce and Anderson can swing around. Swann can be weak link considering fast track, but then he has so much variations.. It all will depend whose batting clicks.

  • John on December 16, 2010, 0:32 GMT

    @bouncedout, yes probably. Unfortunately there really aren't many genuine quicks left in the game. But Dougy and Siddle are both well capable of reaching 150 kph, and Mitchell Johnson when he's in good form and not injured is among the quickest bowlers in the game at the moment. But yes, the last consistent, genuinely quick bowler in the world is Steyn, and even his pace seems down of late.

  • Mikey on December 16, 2010, 0:26 GMT

    @Alexandria it's very rare that a team that declares in either innings of a Test match goes on to lose. Then again...India v England at Chennai comes to mind

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