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April 15, 2012
Australia's desire to preserve Ryan Harris' battered body for as long as possible was sharply illustrated by his resting from the Trinidad match following a Man-of-the-Match display in Bridgetown. Harris ended the first match of the West Indies series stating his desire to play all three Tests, but the selectors on tour decided otherwise in leaving him out for a fresher James Pattinson on a Port-of-Spain pitch likely to play lower and lower as the second Test develops.
Having performed heroically at Kensington Oval with bat and ball to give Australia a 1-0 series lead, Harris was sore but not under any particular injury cloud in Trinidad. He was left out with an eye to his chequered injury history in the hope that he will be fresh by the time the third Test of the series is played in Dominica. His omission was a significant moment in the development of a squad mentality for Australia's fast bowlers, for there could be no doubt about Harris' performance meriting his retention.
Yet instead of playing, Harris found himself taking part in lunch-time training with other non-playing members of the Test squad, in contrast to the injured Peter Siddle who also missed selection for Queen's Park Oval. Their absence created room for the left-arm spinner Michael Beer to play his first Test since he debuted in the fifth match of the 2010-11 Ashes series.
"There was no doubt with the history for Ryan but also the amount that he batted and bowled throughout that game the selectors must have thought it was good to bring a fresh James Pattinson in," the vice-captain Shane Watson said. "To make sure that Ryan is absolutely fresh and ready to go for the third Test is going to be very important. There is no doubt Ryan had an absolutely brilliant game in the last Test match so I've got no doubt it would have been a very tough decision for the selectors either way.
"I think it's the way our group is continuing to go. It's just managing individuals as well as the term can possibly manage them. It continues to be a big step forward to make sure that we get the best out of every individual. And some guys pull up differently from big bowling workloads and obviously I've been a part of that at times throughout my career. So I think personally it's a really big step forward in managing players' workloads when we are playing so much and playing back-to-back Tests consistently as well.
"It also works out well that playing two spinners in these conditions is going to be very important. This wicket is quite similar in many ways to some Indian wickets that I have batted on so it's only going to get worse. The footmarks are only going to dust up and get worse so it was a perfect opportunity to play two spinners and see how they are able to handle it."
Watson revealed that Siddle had complained of developing back soreness during the first Test, and scans had confirmed inflammation that ruled him out of the second match. Siddle now has only a narrow window of time in which to prove his fitness ahead of the final match of the series, having been kept out of limited-overs series both at home and in the West Indies in order to be at his peak for the Tests.
"In the end his back had started to get sore through the last Test match and he ended up getting a few scans to be able to find out what that back pain was," Watson said. "At the moment it's shown it's a little bit sore and there's a little bit of swelling there. Through experience I know when your back gets sore it's never a great thing.
"Hopefully in Peter's case they've been able to get it early enough that even if it's just a few days rest from bowling it settles down in a quick period of time. The one thing you don't want to do is continue to push through it ... sometimes as a bowler if you do that it can put you back a fair way with stress fractures. Fingers crossed that won't be the case and a few days' rest will mean that he's able to be right for the third Test."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Daniel Brettig
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