Australia likely to opt for four-man pace attack against South Africa

February 25th, 2009 - 8:44 pm ICT by IANS  

Johannesburg, Feb 25 (IANS) Australia head into the first Test against South Africa without any spinner but with a possibility of fielding a four-man pace attack at the Wanderers here Thursday.
Spinners Bryce McGain and Nathan Hauritz were left out of the 12 players, who were announced after the practice session here Wednesday. But the inclusion of Tasmanian fast bowler Ben Hilfenhaus opens up an opportunity for Australia for a four-man pace attack.

In the last series in 2006, Stuart Clark took 20 wickets at 15.75 for the series as Australia won 3-0. Skipper Ricky Ponting hoped that this time around Victorian quick Peter Siddle will have a similar impact. For the fourth pacer’s slot, Hlfenhuas will find some tough competition from Victorian all-rounder Andrew McDonald in the eleven.

“Peter Siddle is probably the bowler who is most like Stuey (Clark). He is not a real swinger of the ball but he gets the seam up and hits the seam all the time. That’s what Stuey did over here so well last time.”

“That’s the exciting part of our attack. Siddle hits the seam all the time, Mitch (Johnson) has got out-and-out pace and can knock any batsman over and (Ben) Hilfenhaus and (Doug) Bollinger can support them with some good swing bowling.”

Ponting also said that he expected the good batting wickets unlike the last time in 2006 when South Africans prepared fiery pitches to nullify the impact of Shane Warne.

“I’m expecting the wickets to be a bit different. They were really worried about Warnie last time, which is why they had a fair bit of juice in them,” he said. “No Warnie this time, so I think they might be a bit flatter wickets or a bit better batting wickets anyway.”

Ponting conceded the Proteas would be favourites at home after winning the series in Australia during the summer.

“We can take a lot from the fact that at different times in that series our best cricket was probably a lot better than theirs,” Ponting said.

Vice-captain Michael Clarke has also recovered well from the his lower-back injury. He was Australia’s leading batsman against South Africa in the recent 1-2 series defeat and losing him would be a savage blow to the tourists. The Australian vice-captain has been nursing back problems since he was 14.

“I think I’ll be OK,” he said. “It’s certainly improving and I’m confident I’ll pull up all right for the Test. Any time you’re not playing in the games, like the one we had last weekend, or any time you’re not able to train 100 per cent, there’s a few little nerves there about if you’re going to be OK.

As expected, 20-year-old New South Wales opener Phil Hughes will partner Simon Katich to open the innings.

“If I do get the chance to open the batting with Simon (Katich) at the age of 20 - I mean, I look back two years ago and I got the chance to debut for NSW at the age of 18,” Hughes said. “Now, two years down the track, to be on a tour of South Africa words cannot explain how excited I am, to be honest.”

The Australian 12: Ricky Ponting (captain), Simon Katich, Phillip Hughes, Mike Hussey, Michael Clarke (vice-captain), Marcus North, Andrew McDonald, Brad Haddin (wicketkeeper), Mitchell Johnson, Doug Bollinger, Ben Hilfenhaus and Peter Siddle.

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