Axing spinner cost Australia the Ashes says Warne

Shane Warne said today the "staggering" decision to leave out Nathan Hauritz had cost Australia the Ashes.

England's 197-run win, achieved with more than a day to spare, in the fifth and final test at the Oval this morning (NZT) gave them the series 2-1.

The south London ground has a reputation for assisting spin bowlers.

But Australia chose not to recall off-spinner Hauritz, the lone specialist slow bowler in their squad.

Instead they opted to stick with the four-man pace attack that had bowled them to victory by an innings and 80 runs in the fourth test at Headingley, a ground that traditionally favours the quicks.

England did field an off-spinner at the Oval in Graeme Swann and he took a valuable eight wickets for 158 runs in the match.

"There is bound to be a lot more talk about why Australia did not choose Nathan Hauritz," Australia leg-spin great Warne wrote in his Times column.

"Personally, I have to say that I was staggered by the decision," Warne, one of the greatest bowlers cricket has known, added.

"I would always want to have a spinner in the side for variety's sake, but I think this time Australia simply misread the pitch," said Warne, who retired from test cricket after starring in Australia's 2006/07 5-0 Ashes series thrashing of England.

Groundsman Bill Gordon copped some flak in the Australian press for preparing a 'result' wicket rather than the traditional batting-friendly surface for which the Oval is known.

"The pitch wasn't a minefield, but it was ordinary," Warne said. "I am not making a big thing about it, because it produced some decent cricket.

"Other than Australia's mad couple of hours in the first innings (when they were bowled out for 160), the scores were not that low.

"In a way, you could say that it was a typical Oval wicket - except the first day was more like your normal day four."

However, Warne stressed: "I do not believe that it was doctored in favour of England. It is not as though they picked two spinners, and they couldn't have known that Hauritz would be left out."

Warne though said Hauritz's omission raised questions for the selectors and Australia captain Ricky Ponting who, in Hauritz's absence, had to rely on part-time spinner Marcus North.

"I do not know who had the final say on selection, whether it was the selectors themselves, or Ricky, or what degree of input came from Tim Nielsen, the coach.

"We all make mistakes and somebody, somewhere, will have to take the blame for this one.

"Regardless of that, I am sure that after an hour's play on Thursday, if not earlier, Ricky would have been thinking to himself at slip: 'I could have used Hauritz here.'

"I've said all along Hauritz and Graeme Swann are pretty similar bowlers, and we saw how successful Swann was with his eight wickets in the match."

Warne said conditions had made it a bad toss to lose for Ponting.

"If Ricky had called correctly and batted first, things probably would have been different. England had to win and effectively they gambled fifty-fifty on getting the opportunity to put runs on the board first time."

Ponting, speaking to reporters today, said Australia had erred in leaving out Hauritz.

"We probably got that wrong," he admitted. "I don't think anyone in their wildest dreams thought the wicket would play the way it did. In hindsight, a specialist spinner would have been pretty handy out there."

Sourced from: The New Zealand Herald

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