Australian Selection Poser – The Dead Rubber Blues

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Australian Selection – South Africa v Australia Final Test Preview

Blaise Murphet previews the final test and thinks that Australia need to get the balance right between fresh blood and momentum before the Ashes.

ponting-decisionThe Australian team enters the third test versus South Africa this week in somewhat of a quandary. You see, they’ve already conquered the pretender’s to the crown. They’ve smashed the Proteas on their own turf, thus (for a time) reclaiming their mantle as ‘The Best’. But now they have to make some decisions. They are entering into ‘The Dead Rubber Blues’

What exactly are these ‘Blues’ you may ask…well, let me try and explain.

A test match is a true examination of a sportsman’s skill and fitness. Therefore, it is a great arena to test an up-and-coming cricketer…to see if he can make the cut. But of course, with so much riding on the success of national teams, it is not often that selectors can take a risk or two, and try out new players in the top level. The Dead Rubber, however, presents an unusual window for selectors. They can, in effect, try out a new variation on their line-up, without too many consequences. However, all may not be so clean cut, as momentum for a national side is a key element to sustained success.

Australia, already having won this series, must now look forward to the upcoming Ashes series. They will enter this series as recent victors, however they are far from their very best, and do not have many automatic selections in the side. Let’s break it down.

AUTOMATIC SELECTIONS

Ricky Ponting

Michael Clarke

Mitchell Johnson

Simon Katich

Brad Haddin

PROBABLE SELECTIONS

Mike Hussey

Peter Siddle

Phil Hughes

Marcus North

BORDERLINE

Ben Hilfenhaus

Andrew McDonald

Bryce McGain

Then we can throw three big names into the mix as possibilities.

POSSIBLE SELECTIONS

Brett Lee

Stuart Clark

Andrew Symonds

So, as you can see, there is a lot that could change in terms of the selection of the team for the first test against England in July. In the current tour, you’d have to say that Siddle, Hughes and North have done enough to warrant a start come the first test. However, with Lee and Stuart Clark being fit, the selectors have some headaches. Mike Hussey should probably be selected, but he hasn’t shown much of late, and he could be a victim of a team needing to be finely balanced for the English pitches.

The result of all this is that this final Dead Rubber is the perfect opportunity to try-out some different variations on the theme. North, Hughes and Hussey must play, so that they can show that their form is true. But it is in the bowling ranks that things become interesting. Surely the selectors must try McGain. He is, at the moment, the number one option for the test spinner spot, which is a key position when touring England. Shane Warne is obviously the best leg-spinner the world has ever seen, but nevertheless his 40 wickets in the last Ashes on English soil, shows that spin is important. I think that it’s probably worthwhile resting Mitchell Johnson for this test. Sure, you don’t want to interrupt his great form, but he is now an automatic selection for the Ashes. Therefore, you can afford to give him a rest and see how Hilfenhaus, Siddle, McDonald and McGain go by themselves.

The eleven for the third test would then read as such:

  1. Simon Katich
  2. Phil Hughes
  3. Ricky Ponting
  4. Mike Hussey
  5. Michael Clarke
  6. Marcus North
  7. Brad Haddin
  8. Andrew McDonald
  9. Bryce McGain
  10. Peter Siddle
  11. Ben Hilfenhaus

This team gives the younger players a real opportunity to show their worth, whilst not risking too much by losing momentum. Unlike the recent series in Australia, there is no follow-up against the same team directly after this series. Certainly, if the Aussies were to play the Proteas again straight afterwards, the Aussies wouldn’t want to lose any higher ground. However, there is a while until the Ashes, and although a real balancing act, I think that it would be worthwhile trying out a new combination to get the team just right to take on the Poms.

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