Tuesday, August 20, 2013

And so we're off to The Oval, scratching our heads...

My first reaction to what I sighted in the Cricinfo Facebook feed at five-thirty this morning was a definite suspicion that someone was taking the piss.

Five-thirty on a bin day morning when there’s cat herding to be done before you hit the hoof for the morning lap around town just after six doesn’t leave a whole lot of time for confirmation and investigation, but a quick squiz here suggested they weren’t kidding.

Oh well, Faulkner and Starc in for Khawaja and Bird would provide something to ponder on the lap around town, wouldn’t it?

As it turned out the pondering started as I stepped onto Kennedy Street and was pretty much done and dusted by the time I checked whether it was safe to cross Herbert Street. That’s a space of less than a hundred and fifty metres, folks, so it’s obvious the penny dropped fairly quickly.

In these cases you need to spot the principle the selection panel is working from. If you’re thinking this is what we’ve got and the question is which of them will be staying you’re going to be heading in with a side that’s largely unchanged from last time around. It becomes a question of which of the incumbents cement a place in the side and which of them play themselves out of it.

It’s a start with last time and figure deletions and inclusions approach.

The questions, in that mental environment, involve the possibility of reinstalling Cowan or Hughes in the top six, and which three quicks get the guernsey alongside Watson’s fourth seamer role and Lyon’s spin.

We don’t, however, seem to be working from that basis.

This time around we seem to have adopted what I’ve termed the old Primary Rep Side principle of this is what we’ve got, so how do we fill in the gaps.

Working on that basis, what we’ve got was Rogers and Warner to open, Clarke at Four/Five, Haddin to keep and Lyon to bowl offies. That’s sort of like your old known knowns.

Five names down, six to go in.

Three of those six are going to be your three specialist quicks, with Watson likely to cover the fourth seamer role.  I’d reached that conclusion as I reached the half way point along Kennedy Street, which is where the penny dropped.

It all comes down to Harris.

If he’s one of your three specialist quicks, and he certainly seems to be the first one picked, you’re going to need to cover for him if he breaks down.

Fine, you might think. Harris breaks down, so Watto’s workload increases. End of story.

This, of course, ignores the other elephant in the room. The possibility of Harris breaking down is the first one, but it’s equally obvious that Watto’s no good thing to get through a lot of donkey work without breaking down, which then ramps up the workload for the other to quicks, leaving a very real possibility of further injury issues.
So when you start pencilling in the specialist quicks, if you’ve got Harris and Siddle in the side and you’re looking for the third bloke you’ll possibly be needing a fourth to cover Harris and Watson if both of them break down.

That’s where Faulkner enters the calculations, with the third seamer being a choice between Bird and Starc and Faulkner covering the injury angle.

Wind up going with Starc and Faulkner and you’ve then got a batting order that reads:

 Rogers, Warner, Question Mark, Clarke, Question Mark, Haddin, Faulkner, Starc, Siddle, Harris, Lyon.

One of those question marks is, of course, Watson. We know he’s in there but haven’t figured where to put him.

Slot him into Five and you lose Smith, with Khawaja, Hughes and Cowan being the options at Three. You’re assuming, at this point, Smith isn’t a Three.

Figure that Watto has opened the batting and you can bat your alternative opener at Three, and you’re left with a choice of Smith, Hughes or Khawaja at Five.

So Watto goes to Three, Smith gets the guernsey at Five and everything’s done and dusted.

On that basis you’ve got an attack that’s probably going to be able to snare twenty wickets.

You’ve probably got an attack that can take twenty wickets after one of them has broken down. There’s a fair chance it’s an attack that can do that without bowling someone into the zone where they’re at risk of breaking down.

And it’s quite possible they can winkle out twenty wickets after two out of the six of ‘em have broken down.

Hell, if necessary Clarke, Warner and Smith can all roll their arms over.

The question is, of course, whether this batting line up can score enough runs.

That, one suspects, will depend on the size of the start Rogers and Warner can provide. We could well be 1-150 with Watto joining a well set Rogers or a Warner who’s pummelling the bowling hell, west and crooked.

Then again, we could just as easily be 3-20 with Clarke and Smith forced to consolidate and Haddin, Faulkner and the bowlers to come.

Time, of course, will tell...

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