They may reckon they have the best bowling attack in the world, but Australia’s concerns over their batting were plain for all to see in the selection of the squad for the three-Test series against South Africa next month.
George Bailey was the most noteworthy, though certainly not unexpected change from the triumphant Ashes side. He was dropped having averaged just 26.14 during the five Tests that included just a single half-century in the second match in Adelaide. In his stead, the Australian selectors have looked to Alex Doolan and Shaun Marsh to take on three of the top 10 bowlers in the world at present.
Marsh toured the last time Australia were here in 2011/12, making a battling 44 in the first innings amidst Australia’s batting problems in the infamous Test at Newlands. That knock was highlighted yesterday by the Australian convener of selectors John Inverarity as being pivotal in his recall to the squad for the first time since the Test against India in Adelaide in January 2012.
Marsh’s first class returns have been modest this season. He is averaging 31 from five matches in the Sheffield Shield with his only noteworthy score being a century against Victoria last November when he came to the crease with his side in a dominant position at 302/3.
Doolan was already a back-up in the last Ashes Test in Sydney at the start of the month and always looked a likely candidate for the tour here. “We consider that both are strong players of pace bowling which is important given the strength of South Africa’s attack,” Inverarity said of the pair. “Alex was on standby for the recent fifth Test in Sydney and scored a most impressive 161 not out against South Africa for Australia A last season.”
That knock came in a warm-up game on South Africa’s last tour of Australia, and while, by all accounts Doolan looked good, it’s worth mentioning that South African bowlers don’t play at optimum level in warm-up games, choosing instead to acclimatise to conditions or just to rid themselves of early tour cobwebs.
Nevertheless Doolan ex- plained yesterday that the innings did help foster confidence in his game, something he has built on this season in the Sheffield Shield in which he averages 39.10 and has scored two centuries.
Doolan, 28, has been like a student at the feet of Ricky Ponting in the last few years, keenly studying his fellow Tasmanian’s technique and tapping him up for advice on a regular basis. It’s something he’s sure to do more of in the lead up to coming here and yesterday he explained that he’d already gathered a lot of information on the South African attack.
“I’ve been watching them a fair bit, for the last eight years. Whether I can adjust to it – time will tell I guess. But I’ll be well prepared for the start of the tour, and if I get the nod, hopefully I can have some success,” said Doolan.
As for where he rates South Africa’s attack, compared to Australia’s, Doolan said: “Other than ours, yeah I think they definitely are (the best attack in the world).
“The Australian attack over the last three months, and even in England, showed they are a world class attack, and the way they just dismantled the English top order was just sensational. If any team is rivalling the South African attack, then it’s certainly ours.”
Inverarity hinted at a possible change to the Australian batting order from the one that was constantly in trouble against the English and needed Brad Haddin to bail them out in every Test. Shane Watson, who batted at No3, may be moved down the order to No6 because of the extra burden he is likely to carry with the ball, leaving Doolan and Marsh to battle it out for the top order spot during Australia’s sole tour match against an SA Invitation XI in Potchestroom starting February 8.
Not surprisingly, and given the short turnaround between Tests, the Australian selectors have picked six fast bowlers in the 15-man squad, with James Pattinson returning after injuring his back in the Lord’s Test last July.
The first Test is at SuperSport Park in Centurion from February 12.
Andrew Hudson and his selection panel will meet this week to pick the South African squad for that first Test.
Australian Test Squad
Michael Clarke (capt), Brad Haddin, Jackson Bird, Alex Doolan, James Faulkner, Ryan Harris, Mitchell Johnson, Shaun Marsh, Nathan Lyon, James Pattinson, Chris Rogers, Peter Siddle, Steve Smith, David Warner, Shane Watson
Australian T20 squad
George Bailey (capt), Aaron Finch, Dan Christian, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Ben Cutting, James Faulkner, Josh Hazelwood, Moises Henriques, Glenn Maxwell, James Muirhead, Chris Lynn, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, Cameron White - The Star