11 December 2010

Australian and England selection dilemmas

Having pretty much ignored cricket news for a couple of days (due to work), it's been amazing to catch up. Australia seem obsessed with the idea that they need a left-arm spinner to get Kevin Pietersen out...that's surely the only conclusion given the inclusion of Michael Beer, a man with an average first class record over just 5 matches. Nathan Hauritz has again been mysteriously overlooked, despite a very decent home Test bowling average of under 30. He produced a good allround performance for his State last week where he took 3 second innings wickets and scored a hundred. The match before, he took 7 wickets in the match at next week's Test venue, the WACA. The only conclusion can be that the selectors fear they will look stupid if they recall someone only 2 matches after they jettisoned him. But then again there is Mitchell Johnson and Ben Hilfenhaus who have been recalled after just one match out.

While I've found myself defending Ponting and Clarke this week, I think Hauritz has suffered from muddled captaincy from Ponting and a lack of selection consistency from the Australian selectors. The likes of England and South Africa have demonstrated what needs to happen when you don't have a world-beating spinner available. Ashley Giles and Paul Harris are/were no world-beaters but their role in their sides was/is well thought out. Australia need to do the same with Hauritz.

Marcus North's time has run out and presumably Brad Haddin will move to 6 with Steven Smith will bat 7. There's huge pressure on Smith's bowling though and it will be interesting to see how he responds after he was taken apart when England played Australia A earlier in the tour. Introducing him as the side's one spinner would be very risky but that could be the direction the selectors are going in?

England on the other hand have just one spot to sort out and none of their second-string seamers have exactly covered themselves in glory during the latest tour match. While he may not be a world-beater I think I agree with Jonathan Agnew who thinks that England should pick Bresnan. Bresnan has been in and around the side for a while now and represents the more logical selection choice, rather than Tremlett who has only joined the current squad at the start of this tour. Needless to say, Bresnan's batting will be useful at 8 too. I wonder how many readers of Cricket Burble realise that he averages over 40 in Test cricket (admittedly over just 5 matches), compared to Broad's 27.

England have also selected the ODI squad this week, where Bopara is out and Chris Tremlett and Chris Woakes are in. I still find it hard to believe that a trier like Luke Wright gets the nod over someone with so much talent as Ravi Bopara, but it's no doubt the right call for now and hopefully Bopara will come back in a better player for this. I still see him as the long-term successor to Paul Collingwood (in the ODI team at least) - I'd love to know if the likes of Geoff Miller and Andy Flower feel the same.

Enough about ODIs for now. The far more important and interesting action starts again at the WACA next Thursday and it will be riveting. If England can win the toss and score 500+ in their 1st innings they will feel they have all but retained the Ashes, no matter what they might say publicly until they've completed the job....

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