In the excitement of witnessing the unearthing of a Jamaican wicket that turns square within the first 75 minutes of its use – and the many and varied attempts of England’s top order trying to come to terms with it – the announcement of Australia’s squad to tour South Africa for the three-Test series almost slipped by me.
But a quick read of cricinfo has put me back on an even keel and able to pass rather personal and inexpert judgment on those who will try to stop Graeme Smith’s men taking over the No1 spot in the Test rankings.
While on the one hand, it is an inexperienced squad, it also contains one of the oldest potential debutants in Bryce McGain. Even if the leg spinner proves to not quite have the pedigree to step into Shane Warne’s boots, it will be to the English cricket public’s gain shoud he show he has enough to lace them.
I say my judgment is “inexpert” because, barring a clip from YouTube that I think J-Rod of Cricket With Balls fame posted on his facebook page, I’ve never seen McGain turn his arm over. A bad tour of South Africa, and we will have to endure the rather less emphatic finger tweaking of Nathan Hauritz, who not long ago was considered about the third best off spinner down under.
I’m glad to see Doug Bollinger get another chance, if only because anyone who’s prepared to give 150 per cent to his country, as he announced he was before the Test in Sydney, deserves one. There is an argument that there shouldn’t be room for another left-armer, especially one without the express pace of Mitchell Johnson, but that is a spurious argument: most attacks don’t get by on one right-armed paceman, after all.
Besides Bollinger looked a game competitor in his outing at the SCG, his easy action in which the ball seems to gain pace rather than lose it on contact with the pitch providing a nice contrast to Johnson’s somewhat stiffer approach. And, in any case, he looks a bit of a grumpy bastard, which is what we all want and expect from an Aussie quickie.
Where I might depart from Andrew Hilditch’s selection panel is in the inclusion of Ben Hilfenhaus ahead of Shaun Tait. Tait is inconsistent and can be expensive, but he can be explosively fast, a potential match-winner on his day. I had hoped to see him in England this summer – he was a much improved bowler than the one we saw in the 2005 Ashes before he took soem prolonged rest from the game – but I fear exclusion from this touring team, and with Stuart Clark and Brett Lee to return, I guess I’ll just have to put up with the disappointment.
On the batting front, the inclusion of Phillip Hughes is an interesting one, giving him a great opportunity to cement his place at the top of the order for the Ashes. But again, I’ve yet to see him in action, and Phil Jaques might be feeling a bit miffed. That said, if Hughes fails to impress, the New South Wales left-hander will be hopeful of making the trip to England.
Anyway, taking all this into account, I thought I’d select the starting XI I’d like to see Australia field in Cardiff in July. Much depends on Mitchell Johnson’s batting to continue developing, but I think it could work. Feel free to disagree with me, of course, and add your own.
1 Simon Katich
2 Phil Jaques
3 Ricky Ponting
4 Mike Hussey
5 Michael Clarke
6 Brad Haddin
7 Mitchell Johnson
8 Brett Lee
9 Stuart Clark
10 Bryce McGain
11 Shaun Tait