Zimbabwe Triangular Series 2014

Clarke considers opening options

Brydon Coverdale

August 20, 2014

Comments: 49 | Text size: A | A

Michael Clarke speaks to reporters on his return to Sydney, March 7, 2014
Michael Clarke says the tour of Zimbabwe presents an opportunity for several fringe players (file photo) © AFP
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Michael Clarke believes Phillip Hughes is a strong contender to open the batting with Aaron Finch in Zimbabwe after his remarkable form for Australia A over the winter. The Australians flew out for the one-day tri-series with South Africa and Zimbabwe on Wednesday morning, and they did so without regular top-order batsmen David Warner, Shane Watson and Shaun Marsh.

Watson rolled his ankle at training on Saturday and Marsh is recovering from elbow surgery, while Warner is staying at home to prepare for the birth of his first child. The Australians played a practice match against Queensland in Brisbane on Tuesday and Warner, guest-starring for the Bulls, crunched 84 off 60 deliveries, while his likely World Cup opening partner, Finch, made 90 from 66.

But Hughes was also in the runs, scoring 57 from 41 deliveries to continue his strong form which included first-class scores of 100 not out and 243 not out, as well as an unbeaten 202 in a one-day game, all for Australia A over the past six weeks. His late inclusion in the ODI squad came only because of Watson's injury, and Clarke said he could yet open with Finch in Zimbabwe.

"I still think we've got options," Clarke told reporters at Sydney airport before departing. "Obviously we've got Hughes, he's in a purple patch at the moment, I don't think it's possible to have a better pre-season than what he's done. We've got Finchy who batted beautifully yesterday and has opened the batting for us.

"Hadds has opened the batting for us and Brad Haddin's numbers are very good as a one-day opener. He certainly gives us an option there. We will work out what we think is the best line-up for the conditions and the opposition we are playing and I think the wicket determines that more than anything else."

Haddin's last stint as an opener in Australia's one-day team came over 18 months from early 2010 to 2011, when he and Watson formed the preferred pair. They were the incumbents during the 2011 World Cup and Haddin's form during that tournament was strong - he was Australia's top scorer with 332 runs at 55.33, including four half-centuries.

Hughes has switched between opening and No.3 during his short ODI career and it would be surprising if he was not given a chance during the Zimbabwe series, given the lack of specialist batsmen in Australia's squad. The touring party is heavy on all-round options and in the absence of Watson, opportunities will be presented to several men.

"I think they'll see it as an opportunity to be a part of our one-day team, to try and get their foot in the door and cement their spot -- make it hard for the players that aren't on this tour to get back into the team," Clarke said. "That's how I'd like them to see it. Unfortunately there are only 11 spots and we've probably got 20 players in my opinion who are ready to be a part of that XI. Now it comes down to consistent performance.

"Some guys aren't available for selection but it's exciting for people like Mitch Marsh, Smithy comes into our one-day team, Phil Hughes gets an opportunity, Kane Richardson, Ben Cutting. There are a number of guys who have been given a chance, which is exciting. It's a good chance for them to grab their opportunity.

"The reason you train so hard and perform so well in first class cricket, your goal is to represent Australia so when you get this chance you've got to make the most of it. It's going to be a tough series. The conditions in Zimbabwe will be tough, the wickets will be quite slow, there's generally a little bit of spin there as well so I think we're in for a tough series and I'm pretty sure these young guys will stand up."

Australia's first match in the tri-series is against Zimbabwe in Harare on Monday next week.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale

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Posted by Peterincanada on (August 22, 2014, 15:30 GMT)

@Dashgar Hughes FC average is 46 Finch is 29.At ODI Hughes has a slightjy higher average Finch has the superior SR 92 to 75. The numbers do not justify the statement. As Hyclass and others have stated that if Hughes had not been victimized by no nothing idiots who can say how much better his stats would be.

Posted by Shaggy076 on (August 22, 2014, 5:42 GMT)

Dashgar - Warner hasn't toured Zimbabwe due to imminent father hood that is why Hughes has been given a chance.

Posted by Dashgar on (August 22, 2014, 1:28 GMT)

Surely got to open with Finch and Warner. Hughes has made runs but those two are a class above him.

Posted by   on (August 21, 2014, 16:21 GMT)

If Australia lose.. this series.. then its no big deal.. if Australia win this..then too its no big deal, what they should really look to do, is build their back up strength, and that's why for the life of me I can't understand what.. Johnson.. Haddin.. Clarke are doing on this tour. Apart from a having a match winning spinner.. and a decent death bowler.. Aus have most bases covered with their first choice 11.. but just picture this.. heading into the world cup.. Haddin breaks his finger.. or Johnson or Clarke breakdown.. then who is there to fill the void they would leave?

In an ideal world Warner and Hughes would open and Finch would be your #3.. but Australian selectors have this habit of over complicating things.. they have an amazing talent pool to choose from.. and going back to the likes of Marsh, Watson.. Doolan..Cowan.. is like a kick on the teeth of all the hard working consistent performers in the Australian cricket right now!

Posted by hyclass on (August 21, 2014, 13:18 GMT)

@gimme-a-greentop. I understand what you mean, regarding the outre players. There is a charm in those whose method defies the conventional. The most unusual technique I ever saw, was a former Victorian and South Australian opening batsman called, Paul Nobes, who batted almost front on and built his game around back foot strokes. He still managed a substantial 1st Class career in which he averaged 41.75. Batsmen are engaged in the task of solutions. If they have risen to Test level, over a significant period, one imagines them to have developed answers. There is no credible explanation for their inclusion, beyond the run or wicket laden evidence of that premise. 'Technique', develops a relationship with the bat - not the ball. As Bradman famously quipped, 'play the game for the game's sake and always keep your eye on the ball'. With respect to Arthur, I opposed his selection at the time and the acrimony and method of his demise and departure, were exactly those I had named as probable.

Posted by hyclass on (August 21, 2014, 13:09 GMT)

@HatsforBats - it's certainly a discussion for the ages. It may be that the next 18 months are the teller of the tale. There are a great many high standard batsmen in the world at this time and few standout bowlers. The 'relaxing' of the laws, pertaining to that which one dry humoured observer has euphemistically termed 'elbow bowling', has encouraged the rise of spinners who bowl a 'mystery ball' - the legality being its authentic mystery. Perhaps this is the compensation. Cricket certainly feels top heavy - out of balance, where once, it was the fifth season. I feel that it was more the method employed by Ponting and the emphatic production of his strokes, that gives rise to impressions of his dominance. He was something of a powerhouse and cleaner in his striking.These are simply impressions - the observing purist who perceives the artistry that rises from grace in motion, versus the pragmatist, whose every effort is assigned to results. They are equally worthy of the highest praise

Posted by gimme-a-greentop on (August 21, 2014, 12:44 GMT)

@hyclass..firstly, blame Micky Arthur, everyone else does :) Secondly, I certainly didn't watch it live seeing as how I live in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, but I've watched the video, oh, 50 times now. Despite our well-deserved reputation for cricket conservatism I have always had a soft spot for the weird talents like Hughes, Sanath Jayasuriya, even Chanderpaul. Funny how they are usually lefties. Except for AB, who is another one that can tear up the textbooks and play tennis shots and hit confidently anywhere in the 360 degree arc.

Posted by DragonCricketer on (August 21, 2014, 12:29 GMT)

Hughes must be averaging 220 over last couple of months with 3 big not out scores. if he can lift that average closer to 300 and maintain it for 12 months the Australian selectors might think about possibly considering him for a position in the Australian team. Might.

Posted by hyclass on (August 21, 2014, 11:59 GMT)

@gimme-a-greentop - I take it that you watched him play and your descriptions give me great heart. As I have maintained, batting requires only an attacking plan, a defensive plan and the courage, endurance and physical ability to execute them. There are few better examples of this being applied, than Gillespie's 201* in what proved to be his final Test. If the timeless tradition of 1st Class form to Test is followed, then at Test level, a coach should have little to do, other than man manage and create objectives or match plans, based around knowledge of the opposition, lightening the load of players. Batsmen require certainty - not theories. That this was evidentially not so, from '08-'13, was an admission of a a failure of intelligence and the application of primary success principles. That they were absent in the team and throughout that period is unquestioned. 'Why' and due to whom, has received far less scrutiny than it otherwise might. Cricket was once of country, before all else

Posted by hyclass on (August 21, 2014, 11:40 GMT)

@Mindmeld - scientific methodology is a complete process, that requires a premise, the testing of it, a blind study as a comparative, observation and inference that will in highest probability explain the data and the application of the results. At no time during the 6 year period named, was there a reasoned approach to cause and effect and the assigned responsibility for the outcomes. It abjured in every essential respect, the merest tenets of that method. We live in an age that routinely applies words like 'scientist' and 'research', as titles of authority, without any adherence to its principles - the age of appearance and the twisting of facts to fit theories, rather than the inverse. As named, intelligence is timeless and the enduring methods of cricketing heritage adhered to it in every essential respect, when successful. Don't imagine that avoiding the term 'science', invalidates the existence of the method. All that succeeds, has the premise of this reasoning at its foundation.

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Brydon CoverdaleClose
Brydon Coverdale Assistant Editor Possibly the only person to win a headline-writing award for a title with the word "heifers" in it, Brydon decided agricultural journalism wasn't for him when he took up his position with ESPNcricinfo in Melbourne. His cricketing career peaked with an unbeaten 85 in the seconds for a small team in rural Victoria on a day when they could not scrounge up 11 players and Brydon, tragically, ran out of partners to help him reach his century. He is also a compulsive TV game-show contestant and has appeared on half a dozen shows in Australia.
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