Nielsen tips stable first Test line-up
Tim Nielsen, the Australia coach, has predicted there will be no changes to the batting and fast-bowling line-ups for the first Test against West Indies unless there are injuries. Australia's 15-man squad starts its pre-tour camp in Brisbane on Monday and the incumbents, who were part of the 2-1 victory over India, will be boosted by Nielsen's faith.
"The success Lee, Clark and Johnson had as a fast-bowling group last summer means if they are fit and well they'll be leading the attack," Nielsen said in the Sunday Mail. "The batting group has been quite stable - Hayden, Jaques, Ponting, Hussey, Clarke and Symonds had successful summers - so the guys that featured in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy will have the first opportunity to represent Australia in the West Indies."
There are only two vacancies and Brad Haddin will become the country's 400th Test player when he takes the gloves from Adam Gilchrist for the first Test in Jamaica on May 22. Stuart MacGill, who has recovered from wrist and knee injuries, is the leading candidate to replace the retired Brad Hogg while Beau Casson is also in the squad. "Traditionally, we like the balance of a spinner," Nielsen said. "So unless it will be a raging greentop, I'd say we'll play a spinner."
Ashley Noffke and Doug Bollinger were the two form bowlers during the first-class season, but Mitchell Johnson has the inside running to add to his six Tests. Noffke will start the tour, his second to the West Indies, as the first-choice back-up option.
"He's in the squad so that shows how close he is, but to be honest I wouldn't expect him to be in the first team unless there is injury," Nielsen said. "Ashley was rewarded with some one-day cricket and Twenty20 cricket last year and he's jumped up another level again. It's really pleasing for us to know that if we have an injury, a guy like Noffke can step in and do the job."