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Posts Tagged ‘shane watson’

Sulieman Benn has shown considerable promise for some time (even to the extent of me noticing), so it’s gratifying to see him stepping up when his team need him, taking 5 for 155 (including the wickets of Watson and Katich, who started the day having built a 174-run partnership) as the West Indies dismissed Australia twelve runs short of their own first innings total.

The West Indies could really do with a top-class spin bowler at the moment, as their bowling attack has struggled against the Aussie machine, and if Benn can maintain the same standard in the second innings at Adelaide, where the pitch is starting to deteriorate, then who knows what could happen?

There, I didn’t mention his height once. I didn’t say that he’s taken giant strides forward, or that he’s reached new heights, or even that he was head and shoulders above the rest of the attack.

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Australia go into their first Test series since the Ashes with a strong desire to bounce back, and one could hardly dispute that the West Indies are in need of a boost following their recent troubles, so both sides should be sufficiently motivated for the three Test series which starts on Thursday.

For Australia, the side is fairly settled, with Doug Bollinger confirmed as the 12th man for the First Test. Mitchell Johnson will be hoping for a return to form following his well-publicised struggles over the English summer, whilst Stuart Clark now seems to have been cut adrift indefinitely. As for the batting line-up, Shane Watson is well established as Katich’s opening partner, and the rest of the top and middle order is similarly predictable. Anything other than a series win for the hosts is unthinkable for captain Ponting, who will desperately be trying to shake off the disappointment (and the stigma) of a second Ashes defeat under his stewardship.

The tourists will be boosted by the return of Chris Gayle from Jamaica in time for the First Test. Much, as ever, rests on the captain’s shoulders, as well as those of Chanderpaul and Dwayne Bravo, with the latter hoping to translate his good form for Trinidad & Tobago across to the Test format. Meanwhile, 19-year-old Adrian Barath looks set to open the batting alongside Gayle in a partnership that will have to gel quickly in the face of the formidable Aussie pace attack, not to mention the pace-friendly conditions at the Gabba. The Windies face an uphil struggle, to say the least.

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Rain breaks have a habit of throwing up oddities, and yesterday’s washout at Edgbaston has enabled me to discover the below. I’m not sure whether that’s a good thing or not – the first is a video of Brett Lee singing the Backstreet Boys’ ‘I Want it That Way’ to Shane Watson (himself a keen strummer and Kumar Sangakkara, and the second is, if anything, stranger.

Enjoy, if that’s the right word:

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After that all that talk about Phil Hughes not being under pressure evaporated in a single tweet on Thursday morning, and Shane Watson made his case as a makeshift opener, the pressure is starting to build on Mike Hussey, not least because of this shocking leave yesterday. As has been mentioned on numerous occasions by various others, Hussey’s form has been poor for some time now, and if Australia were to lose at Edgbaston with ‘Mr Cricket’ failing in the second innings, he may prove to be the fall guy.

Interestingly, given Australia’s struggles so far with the ball, the selectors have left the bowling attack unchanged (aside from the extra option that Watson provides). There have been suggestions in some quarters that in reality, Hughes is paying the price for Mitchell Johnson’s continuing troubles, rather than his own failures with the bat.

Even if all of these decisions prove to have been the wrong ones, however, the quality of Australia’s reserves has been somewhat understated by many in the English media – much as Hughes was built up by the same media based partly on big scores for Middlesex in matches that lots of journalists had seen – and surely Graham Manou can’t be quite as anonymous as he seems. In short, Australia may not have the big names any more, but it is a brave (or foolish) thing to discount players purely because they aren’t as well known as Shane Warne or Brett Lee.

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Brett Lee is injured, and may yet miss the whole (or at least the bulk) of the Ashes series. For English fans, the temptation to make a comparison with Glenn McGrath’s injury in 2005 is almost irresistable, but Lee in 2009 is not quite the frightening prospect that McGrath was four years agoMitchell Johnson has well and truly supplanted Lee as Australia’s most threatening pace bowler, and until his strong showing against the England Lions, the latter wasn’t necessarily an obvious selection for the First Test.

Lee’s injury does, however, raise one or two interesting questions about Australia’s selection for the First Test. Although Lee was absent throughout Australia’s ‘comeback’ series in South Africa, his experience (and in particular his familiarity with English conditions) would have been invaluable for the tourists. But in his absence, there are opportunities for others. Will Nathan Hauritz play? Does this injury give Shane Watson or Andrew McDonald a chance to play? I suppose we’ll have to wait and see.

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Australia begin their Ashes warm-up in earnest tomorrow with a tour match against Sussex, and all eyes will be on the bowlers as the Aussies try to determine what their strongest attack is. Of the five pace bowlers in the squad, only Mitchell Johnson can feel confident of his place in the side for the First Test in two weeks’ time. That leaves Brett Lee, Stuart Clark, Peter Siddle and Ben Hiflenhaus to battle it out for the remaining places. Leaving aside the various possibilities regarding spinner Nathan Hauritz and all-rounders Shane Watson and Andrew McDonald, the Sussex match (and next week’s match against the England Lions) could be seen as a shoot-out between the four pacemen. But who should play?

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Less than 24 hours after being backed by his captain for a place in the Ashes squad, Andrew Symonds hasn’t been included in
said squad, with Shane Watson, Andrew McDonald and Marcus North all being preferred to the centrally-contracted and often controversial all-rounder.

Was this the right decision? Was it the wrong decision? Will it make any difference?

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