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Out of sorts Australia finalize Ashes credentials
With the Ashes little over a week away, Australia name their squad to contest the series tomorrow, a group of which has come under unruly fire of late.
Quite never has an Australian side looked so out of sorts, particularly as their proud cricketing nation normally raise a rise smile on the thought of baiting English blood, on their turf.
Toiled in the retirements of previous greats McGrath, Warne and Langer who could always be relied upon to press the English cricket teams self destruct button at any given point, the names Bollinger, Hauritz and North with credit do not touch the sides of great Aussies’ in years gone by.
A run of seven consecutive defeats in all forms of international cricket finally came to an end earlier this month for Ricky Ponting’s men, but following a recent energy zapping trip to India, a barrage of injury woes and a home-base press call hammering from Australian media depicting how England may secure their first series win in the old enemy’s backyard since 1986-1987, all has not been well.
This in stark contrast to England’s fortunes. Coach Andy Flower and Captain Andrew Strauss have built an inform, talented and strong team who look hungry to add their old adversary to a growing list of scalps.
Veteran Australian skipper Ponting, for all his accolades and batting records is under extreme pressure to deliver. The Tasmanian Tigers player already has the burden of losing two Ashes Series in England hanging deafly over his shoulders, and he knows a loss on home soil could bring the curtain down on an illustrious career, although not in the manner he would want.
Tomorrow’s squad announcement will almost certainly see Ponting’s right hand-man and future successor to his lucky green captaincy hat, Michael Clarke, continue his duties as Vice Captain – despite the former Hampshire batter struggling with frequent back problems.
Among the expected party of thirteen to be named ahead of the first Test in Brisbane, another one-time Rose Bowl player Simon Katich (who has won 54 Test Caps – including appearances in two losing series for Australia in England) will open the batting with Shane Watson – two of the Australians most consistent performers of recent times.
Ponting and Clarke – will undoubtedly be the two stalwarts occupying the batting positions, three and four, respectively, but it is the countries middle order which is thoroughly under the microscope.
The idyllically named ‘Mr Cricket’, Michael Hussey, has failed to recapture the form which earned him the coveted nickname and averages of over ninety at the start of his Test career – but the left hander will keep his place as the Australian selectors look to employ faith rather than damaging squad cohesion.
Middle-order partner Marcus North, who also bowls part time off-spin, will need a big series if he is going to save an international career which has declined without trace of late.
Nathan Hauritz, Australia’s frontline spinner will be picked but there are question marks over his selection for the first Test. Australia could pick four seamers for that crucial first match, and use Shane Watson as a part-time pace option – adding extra strength in numbers to the batting line-up.
Whatever the decision, Australia cannot afford for Hauritz not to be in the squad (in some capacity) as he does offer something a little bit different, but in turn the difference is embroiled in inconsistency.
Australia’s pace attack is probably their strongest asset coming into the series, with several options readily available at the selector’s disposal.
Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle, Doug Bollinger, youngster Ryan Harris and the ever dependable line and length of Ben Hilfenhaus cannot be underestimated and barring any unforeseen exclusions from the squad, the fast bowlers will be vying for three spots out of five come next week.
In the only other dilemma, Brad Haddin is set to keep the wicket-keeping gloves over young keeper-batsman Tim Paine – who made a good impression in England last summer.
Possible Australia Test squad as follows: Shane Watson, Simon Katich, Ricky Ponting (capt), Michael Clarke, Michael Hussey, Marcus North, Brad Haddin (wk), Mitchell Johnson, Nathan Hauritz, Doug Bollinger, Ben Hilfenhaus, Peter Siddle, Ryan Harris.
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Stuart Appleby is a multi-media journalist and reporter. Born in Southampton, Stuart has always had a keen interest in local sport here in Hampshire, having an affiliation with cricket and football in particular. Stuart has contributed to the Southern Daily Echo since August 2010 and has also written for Hampshire County Cricket Club, The Hampshire Chronicle, The Times newspaper, Sky News Online, The Cricketer Magazine and FourFourTwo Magazine among others. He holds a 1st Class Bachelor of Arts Degree with Honours in Journalism from the University of Winchester and he has interviewed many recognisable figures from the sporting world ranging from Kevin Pietersen to Sir Ian Botham. Stuart looks forward to sharing his passion for sport and discussing the big talking points in the south on 'Stuart's Sporting Spotlight'. He also welcomes correspondence from readers. If you would like to contact Stuart about his Southern Daily Echo blog or find out more about him then please email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, visit his website: stuartappleby.wordpress.com.