England swept through the Australian batting order with little resistance to claim a commanding one- nil lead in the series. Yet, as it often happens, all the attention now turns to the most pivotal Test match for the series.
The Perth Test is shaping to be the defining moment for both desperate foes. Despite the English crushing Australia in the Adelaide Test, both sides suffered casualties. Stuart Broad and Simon Katich will take no further part in the series. Broad’s negative prognosis is no surprise. Since his first spell in Brisbane, he appeared physically tied down and at times looked short of breath after only a few mere overs. His absence in the series is a blow to England, but not as much as the future absence of the gutsy Katich. The opener leaves a significant dent in the already struggling Australian top order. His consistency over the past two years has been one to marvel at and his hardened attitude at the opening spot will be hard to replace. On day four of the Adelaide Test, he showed absolute determination and resilience under severe pain in a daunting predicament of the game.
Immediatley after the the Adelaide Test, Ponting indicated that the flamboyant Phil Hughes will assume Katich’s position at he top. Hughes can carve up an inaccurate and disorganised attack that lends width to his off-stump. Yet, if Hughes replaces Katich, his technique will be under severe scrutiny by viewers and by the English bowlers. He relies on his devastating cut shot to amount runs, but while his cut-shot is a considerable strength, it is also an obvious weakness in his game. Someone of Finn’s height can expose Hughes’ often timid approach to the short ball on his body. Stuart Broad’s absence will aid Hughes’ bid to secure the opening spot as Broad tends to hit the pitch hard and bowls a wonderful bouncer that surprises the most accomplished batsmen.
The Australian team has already seen two changes to the line up this series. After Marcus North’s miserable failure again this morning, he surely must be the third unforced change to the lineup. The replacement will very much indicate the philosophy of the Australian selectors. Will they back a seasoned campaigner like a David Hussey or a Cameron White or will they turn to an unknown young quality like a Khawaja or Ferguson?
The final crucial decision the selectors must make is the matter of spin. After two Tests, Xavier Doherty is simply punching above his weight. He failed to demonstrate variety in his off-spinners and as a result should be given the flick. While the pitches did little to aid his aspirations, he caused little to no problem for the inform English batsman. Like the North situation- the untried youth or the predictable veterans? Should the selectors turn to the reliable yet not outstanding Nathan Hauritz, or, the excitable and raw Steve Smith? Or perhaps the aggressive wicket-taking yet expensive Krezja is the answer to Australia’s woes. Hauritz has proven he can hold an end in Test cricket but without flattering the world. He deserves a chance at redemption after being surprisingly overlooked for the start of the Ashes series.
Consistent changes is often destabilising for a team, but the Australian side does not have the good fortune nor time to blindly back failed products of North and Doherty.