Monday, December 17, 2012

Hobart 2012: Day Four

So, on the basis of what unfolded yesterday we're looking at two substitutions and a change. Predictably, the speculation has already started, and one notes (with a certain amount of wry amusement) there's even a suggestion that Haddin may return to the side, playing as a specialist batsman.

Well, I suppose he could, and so, just as an emergency measure you understand, could Ponting (he wrote, tongue firmly in cheek). It all depends on whether you're looking at a stopgap measure or the next step in the evolution of the Australian side.

While I'm not suggesting we're already looking towards a long-term successor for Clarke let's start by looking at the captaincy, where there are three contenders: Watson, Hussey, or someone who's not in the current eleven.

Assuming he's still fit come Boxing Day, which isn't guaranteed, the captaincy has to go to Watson. As Vice Captain he's obviously next in line, so we may as well see what sort of a fist he makes of the role. This, of course, rests on the assumption that we take the last eight wickets today, and that Sri Lanka fail to score the 328 they need for their first victory on Australian soil.

Out of the current XI, the only other possibility is Hussey, who probably wouldn’t do a bad job but isn’t a long term prospect.

Take a look outside the current side, and assuming you don’t do something ridiculous like try to lure Ponting out of retirement, that suggestion of playing Haddin as a specialist bat might make sense if you’re really desperate and convinced Watto can’t do it.

The only other candidate would be Bailey, who could go into the Clarke slot if you were looking to provide a long term alternative to Watto, but he’d have to be able to cement his place in the side, which would only seem to be possible if you remove Hussey from long term considerations.

You'd expect Clarke will be back if injury rules him out of Melbourne, possibly as soon as Sydney, if not, then definitely before India, which seems to have been slotted in (or is in the process of being slotted in) between now and The Ashes in the middle of next year.

So, assuming Watto is fit he's the captain because we need to see what sort of fist he makes of the job.

On the same basis, you'd go Johnson for Hilfenhaus with one major proviso. I heard someone on the ABC commentary referring to a Mitchell Johnson statement that he's looking at a second phase of his career when he does a Lillee, slows down and concentrates on line and length.

Sorry, Mitch, if that's the case don't let the door hit your arse on the way out…

If he plays it has to be with a stern directive that he wangs down an average of around 1.8 really quick deliveries an over. At least one, sometimes two, occasionally three, but they need to be quick.

He can pace himself the rest of the time, operating no slower than fast medium, but there's got to be something there to make batsmen nervous, and it has to be there on a regular basis. Once he’s gone close to taking your head off early in the over you don’t want to be assuming you’re safe for the rest of it, and once he’s done it again...

Assuming Johnson into the eleven for Hilfenhaus you'd be looking for someone to fill his slot as twelfth man, and given the workload the remainder of the current attack will be going through today I'd go for two someones in the shape of Bird and Feldman (or maybe Cutting).

And I'd have both (or possibly all three) of them in an expanded squad of fourteen or fifteen for Melbourne.

On the batting vacancy, I'd go Khawaja or Doolan, and again, I'd have both of them lining up for the team prep in Melbourne, partly to be on the safe side but more particularly to ensure they're getting themselves into long form rather than Big Bash mode if necessary.

So, Hughesy's squad for Christmas lunch in Melbourne:

Warner, Cowan, Hughes, Watson, Clarke (assuming he hasn't been ruled out already), Khawaja/Doolan (both if no Clarke), Hussey, Wade, Siddle, Starc, Johnson, Bird/Feldman (preferably both), Lyon.

And for the rest of the Hobart Test?

Who knows?

If Sri Lanka can get through the first session without losing Sangakarra or Mahela they're actually a chance to win it, more so if that pair are still there at the tea break.

Long term survival on this track against a full attack is, however, highly unlikely.

If Siddle, Starc and Watson are all still firing at lunch and Lyon has been getting some assistance, you'd say the chances of Sri Lanka surviving the day would be slim.

If the three quicks are still on the paddock by tea and Lyon hasn’t been belted out of the attack, you'd say those chances were non-existent, but take just one of them out of the equation and things will become very interesting indeed.

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