Hauritz in Ashes mix as seagull steals the show

Australia 340-9dec England Lions 237
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The Independent Online

A cheeky seagull swooped in to steal the show here yesterday. But when it comes to settling the Ashes series later this week or early next, the possibility of Nathan Hauritz playing an important role cannot be discounted.

Ten Test wickets at 32 runs apiece is not so bad for a bloke who was going to be the weak link in Australia's bowling attack – and certainly not bad enough to put Hauritz out of contention for The Oval decider.

Surplus to requirements he may have been at Headingley, where Ricky Ponting's seamers and swingers enjoyed a couple of field days against England's accommodating batsmen, but history suggests the squad's only specialist tweaker will be needed in south London

The off-spinner, you may recall, was going to be out-performed all summer by Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar, or at least until Australia wielded the axe to save him from further punishment. Well, something has gone awry with that script because England's two slow bowlers have struck just seven times between them – at considerably greater cost and from a combined total of five Tests – while Hauritz's only real problem during the first three matches of the series came when he dislocated a finger at Lord's.

Ponting and coach Tim Nielsen will leave team decisions until they see what The Oval pitch has to offer. But the captain gave Hauritz every chance to get back into a nice rhythm during yesterday's gently meandering match against the Lions, an opportunity he took by picking up a couple of wickets

In order for Hauritz to regain his place on Thursday, one of those pace bowlers who ripped through England a week or so ago will have to make way. The smart money is on Stuart Clark, who gave the impression of a man expecting to be miffed when hitting tailender Steve Kirby on the helmet three times in an over shortly before Australia were credited with a 103-run victory on first innings.

That was not quite the end of the entertainment, though. Brett Lee has little chance of breaking into the Test team at this late stage. He performed with commendable aggression on a placid pitch yesterday, though, and set up a collector's item by clean bowling Liam Plunkett.

As the Aussies patted Lee's back, a seagull swooped onto centre stage, picked up a fallen bail in its beak and flew off with its 'catch' to earn the day's biggest round of applause and leave the umpires to call for some substitute timber.

*Zimbabwe batsman Charles Coventry yesterday equalled the highest ever one-day international score, hitting 194 not out to lead his team to 312-8 in the fourth match against Bangladesh.

Coventry smashed 16 boundaries and seven sixes in 156 balls to record his maiden ODI hundred and match the score made by Saeed Anwar for Pakistan against India in Chennai in 1997.

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