Cricket 2

Here is my Australian squad for the first test in the Ashes series. The match is being held, for the first time in any Ashes tour, at Sophia Gardens/SWALEC Stadium. A few international ODIs have been played there. One that springs to mind is the match where Bangladesh beat Australia by 5 wickets in 2005 – the same tour where we lost the Ashes. Hopefully any ghosts that the ground may have have been exorcised. The pitch will most likely be spin-friendly. It was so spin-friendly at a recent county match that the pitch, under ICC rankings, was rated ‘poor’. The groundsmen say  they are preparing a pitch that will last five days and not a spinner’s wicket – but I doubt that very much, seeings how England have some strength with spin this tour and Australia clearly do not. Within that context, it forced some changes to my team had it been on a neutral wicket. I have chosen from the squad of players that are over there now:

  1. Simon Katich
  2. Phil Hughes
  3. Ricky Ponting
  4. Michael Clarke
  5. Andrew McDonald
  6. Brad Haddin
  7. Michael Hussey
  8. Mitchell Johnson
  9. Stuart Clark
  10. Nathan Hauritz
  11. Brett Lee

Now for explanations:

  • I always argue that the rotating system is ridiculous, and once you pick someone you stick with them unless they are consistantly underperforming or were a quick flash in the pan. To that end, Phil Hughes should be our opener until the day he retires. I like Phil Jaques, but having been injured, and with Hughes in good form, he won’t get back in any time soon;
  • Andrew McDonald, David Hussey and, yes, even Shane Watson were all competing for my number 5. I orginally chose David Hussey, but after looking at my bowling line-up with only 4 specialist bowlers, and one of them an average spinner, I needed a dedicated all-rounder with some bowling technique that could get a wicket. David Hussey lost the spot because of this – while a part-time bowler who may get wickets, the only reliable bowling advantage he brings is that he gets through an over in about 30 seconds. Good if you want to take the game away from the batters, but you can’t bowl a fast over if you’ve been whacked into the crowd because you have no variety. McDonald got the spot over Watson because, had I chose Watson he would have tripped stepping over the boundary rope and broken a leg;
  • I put Michael Hussey further down the order because the lower he is, the better he performs. Similarly, I think that whatever batter he ends up with, batting at 7, you know that that is the last batting stand, and anyone else he could be paired with afterwards is just a tail end stand. In no scenario is he being expected to make a top-order or middle-order performance, which takes off a lot of pressure from the struggling batter;
  • Nathan Hauritz only gets in because of the wicket. Had the pitch been neutral, I would have included Ben Hilfenhaus ahead of Peter Siddle due to his ability to swing the ball (which I suspect will be key to our team because we don’t have a good spinner, and the pitches are never made for pace in England). There’s not much to say – really, I expect nothing bar (at best) a low economy rate. I wouldn’t expect a haul of wickets, even with a pitch made for spin (which, I guess, speaks volumes about my confidence in him). But, if you’re playing on a pitch made for it, you have to include him. Who knows, he might shock us all;
  • Brett Lee is only in because of Hauritz. If I had put Hilfenhaus in, I would have put Siddle in as well ahead of Lee. He is in struggling form, he is fresh off injury, and if this were any other test series, I would overlook it because of his mass of experience. But because this is the Ashes, his liabilites win out, and I would have left him out. But, in this instance, his experiences and former skills edged him back in in the wake of low expectations from the spinner and a new all-rounder.



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