Sunday, December 4, 2011

So, on to Hobart…

And while we're en route to Bellerive we can slot a couple of pieces into the jigsaw puzzle and place three large red ticks beside Lyon, Pattinson and bowling coach/advisor McDermott. Maybe a couple of gold stars to go with the red ticks, but let's not get too carried away.

There are still a couple of questions, but things are definitely looking a tad clearer.

Yesterday's performance with the ball confirmed we've found the medium term answer to the finger spinner riddle. Lyon's 7/88 reads as the best Gabba Test match return for an Australian off-spinner, and I note with some interest that the only better returns by an offie come from Lance Gibbs (8/170 in 1968) and Erapalli Prasanna (8-218 the year before). That's exalted company, so let's hope he keeps going…

In the quest for an attack that'll take twenty wickets James Pattinson definitely looks the goods, provided he can maintain the same line and length he bowled yesterday. He might be pushing to match the figures he had in the middle of that spell but as long as he's bowling that line and length the possibility will be there.

Remember that most of the radio commentators were bullish about Day Four as the best batting day on that particular Gabba deck…

And that spell put a big tick beside McDermott's fuller length, give the ball a chance to swing philosophy that had the technical staff moving the pitch parameters a metre towards the batsman when they're defining the length.

Actually, this little issue possibly confirms some long-held suspicions about the bowling coach's role in the pecking order. When Troy Cooley was brought back into the fold after his sterling effort with the English attack in 2005 I found myself scratching my head and wondering why our bowlers were't able to swing the new ball or reverse it later in the innings.

After all, the Cooley co-ordinated Poms did it in 2005 and the non-Cooley co-ordinated version did it out here last year.

From where I'm sitting it starts to look like Cooley's role as far as the blokes he was working with were concerned was to provide technical support while the bowlers sorted out the strategy. That's the same issue I raised in an earlier post (A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest) and it definitely means we need a clear channel of communication between selectors, bowling coach and players.

The selectors define what they want to see out of the attack, the coach provides the support and the bowlers deliver what they're asked to deliver rather than what they choose to define as desirable.

Pattinson with a fit Cummins looks like a sharp attack, Starc may or may not have Hobart to demonstrate what he's capable of, Copeland is lurking on the fringes and naming Christian as cover for Cutting also suggests we've got a shadow for a bowling Watson pencilled in.

Comments on ABC Radio News this morning suggest Cummins will be back for Bellerive on Friday, but I'd be inclined to stick with the same attack and see what we reckon as far as Starc and Siddle are concerned.

But we're looking good in the bowling department.

The only major question mark beside the batting group, apart from the Ponting/Hussey retirement issue (and it's clear where I'm sitting on that one) concerns Hughes at the top of the order.

When you look at that question he's only hanging on by the skin of his teeth while Watson and Marsh are on the injured list.

Personally, as far as the side for Melbourne is concerned I'd be seeing how we get through Hobart, giving the side a couple of days off and reconvening the current twelve (with Christian in for Cutting) along with Watson, Marsh and Cummins and taking a couple of days to ponder the possibilities.

Assuming Hughes' days are numbered, and Marsh and a bowling Watson are both fit, my choice, three weeks out from Boxing Day, would be Marsh for Hughes, Watson for Hussey and Cummins for Starc.

Injuries between now and then, or a non-bowling Watson would complicate matters slightly, but in the event of Watson not being right to bowl or Marsh not being fit Watson for Hughes, Christian for Hussey.

Sorry, Mr Cricket, but we need a bowling option in the middle order and if Shane persists with the belief that he can open the batting and bowl his share we still need a bowling option in the middle since his share as an opener will probably be less than his share as a middle order bat.

So, at one-up in the two Test series we can leave things for a bit. I'll be back Friday morning for a preview and, in the meantime, I've got another couple of fish to fry.

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