Siddle and Clark shine as Ponting plans for Cardiff

Australia 349-7d & 18-0 Sussex 311
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The Independent Online

The Australian tourists continued their rigorous work-out as they build up to the start of the Ashes series next month, and having seen the batsmen on Wednesday, yesterday Ricky Ponting ran his eye over his bowlers.

With one more match, against England Lions at Worcester next week, left to sort out a team for the first Test in Cardiff starting on 8 July, Ponting needs to see as much as he can of all the available players.

The Sussex batsmen proved helpful in this respect, batting for most of the day, despite being without two top class batsmen, Murray Goodwin and England's Matt Prior, and by the time they were all out, leaving the Aussies to negotiate the remaining seven overs, they had managed to get within 38 runs of the Tourists' total.

Ponting therefore got a good look at the contenders for a Test place. Already it looks as if the left-arm fast bowler Mitchell Johnson, rested for this game, and right-arm quickie Peter Siddle will be shoo-ins for Cardiff.

Siddle made life extremely uncomfortable for the Sussex men and gave very little away. And, despite a poor return in the Sussex first innings of 0 for 98, the off-spinner Nathan Hauritz is another probable first Test starter, so Ponting has to pick one more, realistically either Brett Lee or Stuart Clark.

The latter looked the pick of those, especially in the two afternoon sessions when he picked up three wickets. He also felled Andrew Hodd with a wicked throat ball, which caused the Sussex fans an anxious few minutes. Fortunately the Sussex keeper, on one at the time, batted on to frustrate the Tourists for the best part of two hours, finally succumbing to Clark, thanks to a fine catch at slip by Michael Clarke.

Clark without an "e" also had Robin Martin-Jenkins well taken by keeper Brad Haddin, having earlier accounted for stubborn opener Chris Nash, the Sussex top scorer, who was snapped up by Ponting at second slip.

It was a useful performance. As for his rivals, Lee is no longer the thunderbolt he once was. Injury has taken its toll on the bowler once clocked at 160kph (100mph), his 310 Test wickets now average more than 30 runs apiece. Clark on the other hand has 90 Test victims to his name in 22 matches.

But Lee, who has recently recovered from a third operation on his left ankle, showed a great deal of control and unleashed the odd quicker ball to remind batsmen that he can still maintain speeds in the low nineties, which are fast enough to trouble most batsmen. And he too finished with three wickets. Australians had made 18 runs without loss at the close.