It’s no coincidence the two best Ashes series this century were both played in England.
Australia’s defeat at the hands of New Zealand on Monday was painful for a myriad of reasons. Partially because it’s the Kiwis, and losing to them is something an Australian Test team never wants to do.
But mainly because it undid pretty much all the good work that was achieved overseas in Sri Lanka and South Africa.
What looked like a pretty solid team after their deathly close win over South Africa is now being picked at and reshuffled.
Unfortunately for the Australian selectors, the kickoff of the Big Bash has meant that there will be no four-day Sheffield Shield cricket from now until the start of the Indian series.
This allows plenty of time for injured players to recover, but no opportunity for struggling players to prove their worth or get some confidence back.
So what exactly will the test team look like come the start of the first Indian Test?
The incumbents at the moment are David Warner and Phil Hughes. I think it’s safe to say that come Boxing Day, you will only see Warner at the top of the order.
It’s a shame for Hughes, who notched a quality century in Sri Lanka and a fighting 88 in the second South African Test, but losing his wicket to pretty much the same way, four times in a row, sticks out when scapegoats are needed.
His replacement should be the recovered Shane Watson. If Watson is still unable to bowl though, there is a chance they might continue to rest him in favour of all-rounder Dan Christian, who would bat in the middle order.
With Shaun Marsh’s back injury most likely ruling him out of the first Test it will probably come down to either Usman Khawaja or a bolter like Tasmanian opener, Ed Cowan.
If Marsh’s back injury does keep him out, then Khawaja could very well retain his spot at number three despite the fact he hasn’t notched anything higher than the 65 he scored in South Africa.
The only thing really stopping Khawaja’s retention is if both Watson and Marsh are unfit and the selectors decide to blood both Cowan and Christian.
Ricky Ponting’s return to Tasmania did not go as planned and to be honest, his home state didn’t really bring out the good china for his homecoming.
Their home-grown hero was in desperate need of a century and so what do they do? They give him the greenest and seamiest wicket imaginable.
That’s not to say the pitch was entirely at fault. Ponting’s front leg issues are getting so bad he is almost comically over-compensating and the shot he played in the second innings of the last Test to get out wasn’t good luck.
Regardless, he will most likely retain his place for the first Test and if only because Hughes’ exit has lessened the pressure on him.
Michael Clarke is of course a no-brainer for positions four or five while Michael Hussey and Brad Haddin should conclude the middle-order. Those last two could find themselves walking on egg shells pretty soon though, if they don’t pick up their games a little.
Hussey has very quietly amassed the worst two Test series of his career in his last two outings while Haddin has picked up the label of someone who plays stupid shots in tight situations.
There seems to be a heap of names floating around for possible bowling line-ups for the first Test against India. Personally I believe our optimum bowling attack is Ryan Harris, James Pattinson, Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon.
Cummins’ heel problem rules him out however, and going off the last Test against New Zealand, I think three of the four bowling spots will be Pattinson, Lyon and Peter Siddle.
That leaves one bowling spot free and like I said, optimally that would go to Harris but the truth is the guy’s health is about as unpredictable as that Tasmanian wicket.
A fit and healthy Harris is the first bowler picked for Australia every time but that Harris simply does not exist. There’s no guarantee he will be fit for the first Test and if he is, there’s a real likelihood he won’t be fit for the following Test or the one after that.
He’s not exactly young either, so the question is whether or not he’s worth the risk.
If he isn’t, then there is still a bowling spot free. The selectors may be temped to give Mitchell Starc another run but to me, Starc showed that he needs more time to develop.
At present, he seems like a like-for-like replacement for Mitchell Johnson, which isn’t really a good thing.
A name that seems to have fallen off everyone’s lips is Trent Copeland. I have no idea what he did to annoy the selectors so bad, but he seems to have just been ditched entirely since performing fairly solidly in Sri Lanka.
His pace (or lack there-of) is constantly cited as a negative, but the selectors need to take a look at the New Zealand bowling line-up that just dismantled us. There’s something to be said for a good line and length, regardless of pace.
Speaking of fallen off everyone’s lips, what the hell has Doug Bollinger done apart from hurt our eyes and ears on those Vodaphone ads?
He had fitness issues in the Ashes last year but he seems to have fixed those and he still has 50 wickets to his name in 12 Tests at an average of 25. The fact he is a left-armer would also provide a different look for the batsmen.
My predicted line-up
1. Shane Watson
2. David Warner
3. Usman Khawaja
4. Ricky Ponting
5. Michael Clarke
6. Michael Hussey
7. Brad Haddin
8. Peter Siddle
9. Ryan Harris (Mitchell Starc)
10. James Pattinson
11. Nathan Lyon