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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Australia's courageous selection(s)?

Even though the bookies may still have Australia as favourites, it's England who look, on the eve of the First Ashes Test, to be on the front foot. In the preliminary matches the visitors have defeated WA, had the better of a draw against SA, and walloped Australia A by 10 wickets.

The England approach has been low key: quiet confidence which stops well short of hubris. On the other hand Australia's has fluctuated between confidence and confusion as injury worries and selection issues attract a broad spectrum of opinion ,much of it critical.

The England team is, and probably has been for several weeks, settled. Each member, Kevin Pietersen perhaps excepted, is in form. The Australian selectors have, by dropping offspinner Nathan Hauritz in favour of the unTested slow left armer Xavier Doherty, taken what Sir Humphrey Appleby (and many others) would call a "courageous decision". I'm not one of them, not because I believe that Doherty demands a place but because, after watching much of the two-Test series v India, I don't think that Hauritz is bowling all that well.

While all the indications are that Australia will, like England, play three quick and one slow bowler, the nature of the Gabba wicket (and maybe weather) together with Australia's relatively strong quick bowling resources might have inclined the selectors to omit the specialist spinner.

Let's hope the conditions allow a good contest. If I had to stick my neck out I'd opt for a draw, not least because the weather forecast for the next few days isn't too promising.
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