Tait and Johnson duel for fast bowling Test spot
Mitchell Johnson and Shaun Tait wage a mini-selection battle, observed by selector Merv Hughes as Australia decide on the third pacer.cricket Updated: Dec 24, 2007 12:56 IST
Australia have given no indication of the make-up of their bowling attack for the Boxing Day cricket Test against India with pacemen Mitchell Johnson and Shaun Tait waging a mini selection battle at training here Monday.
Tait and Johnson bowled flat out to captain Ricky Ponting in the nets, as selector and former Test fast bowler Merv Hughes looked on.
The two young firebrands are likely to be vying for the one spot if, as expected, selectors stick with tradition and play three quicks and one spinner.
"I had a look at they way they both bowled, they were fantastic. Brett Lee was in good form and (Stuart) Clark was good, too," Hughes told reporters Monday.
"As a selector it's good to have options and quite often the toughest part of being a selector is trying to decide who to leave out."
Hughes said the selectors will assess the weather conditions and pitch before deciding whether to play wrist spinner Brad Hogg and three quicks, or a four-pronged pace attack.
Batsman Michael Clarke said he did not envy the selectors making the final judgment.
"Thank God I wasn't facing either of them," Clarke said of Johnson and Tait.
"They were both bowling pretty quick today."
"I really have no idea what they (the selectors) are going to do. Either way one of them is getting a chance. It's going to be unfortunate for the one that is left out, both are bowling well."
The MCG wicket is expected to favour pace early on Boxing Day, but forecast hot weather over the remainder of the Test should flatten the pitch and produce some turn over the last two days.
Curator Tony Ware said the wicket would be quicker than those used in domestic matches this season.
"It will start to wear a little bit towards the end and a spinner is useful because you really can't take advantage of that unless you have a spinner," Ware said.
"But if the boys see a little bit of grass on it, they might think the four quicks are a chance to do some damage to India in the first session."
Despite the firepower Tait brings, Australia have not chosen an all-pace attack since 1992 and selectors will remember Hogg's Sheffield Shield performance at the MCG in October, when his 8-83 for the game delivered Western Australia victory over Victoria.
Clarke said Hogg's consistency throughout his one-day career and his perplexing wrong'un made him a dangerous prospect, despite India's liking for spinners.
"If he continues to bowl the way he's bowled since I've been playing one-day cricket, that will hold him in great stead whatever form of the game," he said.
Melbourne Cricket Club officials expect a first-day crowd of about 75,000, which would better the start of the 2005 Test against South Africa, although would not match last year's 89,155 Ashes sell-out against England.