Ponting calls for Hughes as Waugh hits out at selectors
Captain says diminutive opener is 'first cab off the rank' as Katich replacement
Ricky Ponting has endorsed Phillip Hughes to replace Simon Katich for the third Ashes Test in Perth. Katichis unlikely to play any further part in the series with an Achilles injury and Hughes is the captain's preferred pick at the top of the Australian order.
"Phil Hughes is the first one that comes to mind," Ponting said of the 5ft 7in 22-year-old who had an excellent start to his Test career but has only played two Tests since a disappointing tour of England in 2009. "We know what his international record is like. He's got a few runs under his belt so he's probably the first cab off the rank.
"I'd be surprised if it's not him that comes in. I'm not a selector. The chairman of selectors and I haven't spoken yet. I'm not sure what they're thinking. We'll have a good discussion."
Ponting is confident, however, that regardless of the details of the re-shuffle the eleven that play in Perth will perform. "At the end of the day whatever 11 players are selected I expect they can do the job for Australia," he said. "This week they haven't done that. It's about finding the attitude, because I know the ability is there to get the job done."
Former captain Steve Waugh has admitted that the selectors are "in a quandary" over what to do following the defeat to England at Adelaide, a situation he described as "almost like the shoe is on the other foot".
The win in Adelaide marks first time that England have led in an Ashes series in Australia since they won the first Test in Brisbane in 1986. That was Steve Waugh's ninth appearance of a 168-Test career that later saw him captaining arguably Australia's strongest ever side.
Waugh's advice was that the Australia selectors should stop discarding players so readily and instead should settle on a chosen group for the remainder of the series. After allowing England to escape with a draw in Brisbane, as the visitors reached 517 for 1 declared in their second innings, Australia dropped Mitchell Johnson and Ben Hilfenhaus, replacing them with Doug Bollinger and Ryan Harris.
This approach was no more incisive, however, as England declared on 620 for 5 in the next Test. "I don't know what the selectors are going to do, because they have chopped and changed I think probably too much in the last 12 months," Waugh said.
"You just look at the bowling. They've got through so many bowlers: Clint McKay, Peter George, then we've got Hilfenhaus and Johnson. Where do you go if you've just discarded these guys?"
Drawing on the lessons of the 1980s, Waugh advocated a patient approach. England won in 1986-87 but it was a formative moment in the careers of not just Waugh but a generation of players who went on to win the next eight Ashes series.
"This is a situation similar to back in '85-'86 when the selectors sat down and thought, 'this is a group of cricketers we're going to stick with through thick and thin and let's back them,'" Waugh said. "They are almost at the point now where they've got to identify players and say 'righto, we're going to stick with them'."
Hughes aside, another member of the 2009 Ashes side who could well be recalled is off-spinner Nathan Hauritz, who yesterday scored an unbeaten century for New South Wales against South Australia at the SCG . "Whenever you're dropped you are always looking to perform well," said the bowler. "I've been lucky enough to take some wickets [seven in the previous Sheffield Shield match] and score some runs but the job's only halfway done.
"I was dropped for not doing my role in the side. I've got to go back to first-class cricket and prove I can do that and restore the faith of the selectors and the captain." After Xavier Doherty's 1 for 158 in Adelaide the return of Hauritz – dropped after a difficult tour of India in October – is a possibility.
Usman Khawaja, the 23-year-old batsman who played for Australia A against England last week, is also playing for New South Wales and scored 53. Hughes, however, only managed to score four.
A less likely recall would be for Shane Warne, who has played down calls for his return. "All I can say is that it is very flattering to hear those words," he said.
The Bowl-Off: Three vie to take over from Broad
England suspect they know the bowler they want to replace Stuart Broad in the third Test in Perth. They are not saying but the indications are that Chris Tremlett, similar height with similar length and similar bounce may be favourite.
Nor is it a done deal whoever is in the management's mind. They are keen to scrutinise all three reserve pacemen in the tour match in Melbourne supposed to begin in the early hours UK time tomorrow and all have something to prove. The man who receives the selectorial nod will almost certainly take the new ball with Jimmy Anderson, since Steve Finn is not considered yet to be sufficiently accurate.
Flower has been a champion of Finn's since he first surprisingly plunged him overnight into Test cricket in Bangladesh last March. But he also recognises his limitations at present.
"I have been very impressed with him he since first played international cricket, I think he has handled it really well," said Flower. "He's a young man and he is nowhere near to fulfilling his potential at the moment."
Broad took only two wickets in the two Tests but he still roughed up Australia's batsmen with his awkward lift and menacing length. Flower will be eager for his replacement to duplicate that.
He had been out of Test cricket for three years until he was picked for this Ashes squad. Thought by some to be too gentle of demeanour and to lack purpose, he impressed the new bowling coach, David Saker, last summer when he took 50 wickets for Surrey. It should be remembered that when he played his three Test matches against India in 2007, he looked as though he belonged in international cricket.
Flower said: "He brings you heavy bounce with the ball coming from that height. He bowls a consistent length and gives you bounce. He's not express pace but it's imposing as a batsman when someone of that height and size is running in at you. He will bring consistency with that bounce. I think that's why he did well in this last English summer, because he bowled a consistent length."
For many pundits, some of them former professional bowlers, Bresnan does not tick enough boxes. He is too slow, too pedestrian, too short and with not enough firepower all round. But the England management would disagree and Bresnan is a confident performer who is much quicker than he often looks. He is also an intelligent performer. Still only 25 he has been around for eight years and has a healthy confidence in his own ability. And he can bat.
Flower said: "He is an experienced cricketer even though he's relatively young. He's a strong man, he's accurate, he bowls skilful reverse swing and he bats and fields well. In some quarters he's viewed as a medium pacer but he bowls quick enough to beat good players. He's got a quick bouncer."
He will forever be enshrined as the first Yorkshire-born Asian to play for the county. He has only become properly established in the last two years. But he is perky and robust with decent swing and was highly impressive in his only Test appearance to date at Old Trafford last year.
Flower said: "He bowls very well at left-handers, we saw that in Hobart. That doesn't mean to say he's not effective against right-handers, but he's more dangerous against left-handers. Again, he's got enough pace to beat good players and when the ball reverses he can reverse it both ways. He is fit and strong and can run in for you all day."
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