The Lord’s pitch, slope and forecast showers are expected to result in Australia promoting Josh Hazlewood at the expense of James Pattinson in the second Ashes Test.
Captain Tim Paine has opted against revealing an XI on the eve of the clash in London, where the tourists’ search for a 2-0 lead starts on what is forecast to be a very wet Wednesday.
The tourists have instead named Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc in a 12-man squad, with Pattinson the notable omission as Australia try to keep England guessing.
Justin Langer and Trevor Hohns gave strong consideration to backing an unchanged team, having been thoroughly impressed by recalled pacemen Pattinson and Peter Siddle in Australia’s series-opening win at Edgbaston.
But the case to include Hazlewood, who was on the wrong end of Langer’s last-minute “gut feel” decision between him and Siddle in Birmingham, appears to have been too compelling.
Complicating matters is a three-day break between the second and third Test.
Given the attack is likely to be reshuffled because of workload concerns, selectors have put Pattinson on ice for the ensuing match in Leeds.
But the overriding priority for coach Langer and chairman of selectors Hohns this week is victory, which would put their team in the box seat to complete Australia’s first away Ashes triumph since 2001.
No side has ever come back from 2-0 down to win a Test series since Don Bradman’s Australia in the 1936-37 Ashes.
Hazlewood outperformed Starc in the recent tour game against Worcestershire, exercising great control in his best performance since suffering a serious back injury in January.
The right-armer is expected to get the nod.
Paine suggested conditions, both overhead and underfoot, will determine who claims the final spot in the XI at Lord’s.
“We just want to have another quick look at the wicket. We know there’s a bit of weather around,” Paine told reporters.
“We’ll make a call on the conditions and what we think is going to be the best combination.
“But also knowing this is a big series and there’s going to be a lot of overs bowled, there’s a lot of cricket coming up.”
Mitchell Johnson has called on Starc, who has tumbled down the current pace pecking order, to be picked in place of Pattinson.
Paine predicted the home of cricket would offer both pace attacks more assistance than a slow deck in Birmingham, where Nathan Lyon spun his team to victory on the final day.
“Especially if it’s overcast. It looked to have a greener tinge than Edgbaston did … a similar wicket to maybe what we saw (In England’s recent Test) against Ireland,” Paine said.
“It looks similar to the nets, just to look at and feel, and the nets have been doing a little bit and spinning.”
Paine even suggested the unique 2.5-metre drop between the north and south ends of the oval could help shape the selection debate.
“A little bit,” the skipper said.