"The time has come for Australia to drop Matthew Hayden," according to Michael Slater. Hayden, who hasn't made a century since July 2004, still has the confidence of Ricky Ponting, but Slater, his former opening partner, said it was time for change with the Ashes at stake.
"He's struggled to make runs all series, as he did in 2001 in English conditions," Slater said in the Courier-Mail. "In truth, he has been out of form for 12 months." What Slater did not add, however, was that the treatment he was recommending was the exact same fate that he himself suffered in 2001. Back then, he was dropped for the Oval Test to make way for Justin Langer, and never played for Australia again.
After struggling in the past three Tests, Australia have received a boost with Glenn McGrath, who missed Trent Bridge with an elbow injury, declaring himself fit for the series-deciding fifth Test starting on September 8. "I've improved out of sight," McGrath said in the Daily Telegraph. "Errol Alcott is again weaving his magic. If I don't quite make the Essex match then I'll definitely be right for The Oval."
Slater said he would promote Simon Katich to replace Hayden and draft in the allrounder Shane Watson, who is playing at Hampshire. "[Simon] has done the job in four-day cricket and in one-day matches and has the technique to cope well," he said. "Watson gives Australia a fifth bowling option, something England have had all series."
In the past four Tests Hayden has managed only 180 runs with a top score of 36 and his lack of productivity has been a crucial factor in the side's lack of success. However, Kim Hughes, the former Test captain, agreed with Ponting and said Hayden should be retained.
"You've got to persevere in that instance," Hughes said in The Australian. "You know Matthew has had a fantastic record. It's not so much that he's struggling to get started. He's getting in. He's doing the hard yards and then just getting out."
Trevor Hohns, the chairman of selectors, told the Courier-Mail it was too early to speculate about the line-up. "It is a concern we are 2-1 down and we will have to pick the best team to give ourselves the best change of winning," he said.
Slater also suggested recalling Stuart MacGill to exploit England's weakness against legspin, even if it meant dropping Shaun Tait, who took three wickets on debut at Nottingham. "Australia must do something to change things because right now they are staring down the barrel at losing the Ashes," Slater said. "I believe we will lose unless the selectors make changes."