Lillee's lament: no spearhead
Mitchell Johnson. Photo: Getty Images
FAST-BOWLING legend Dennis Lillee has lamented the lack of a spearhead to stop South Africa's marauding batsmen in Perth and said he would have been furious if he had been rested from a Test as Peter Siddle was from this one.
The closest thing Australia has had to a spearhead at the WACA Ground is Mitchell Johnson, who was playing his first Test in 13 months and muscled his fourth wicket as the Proteas were dismissed for 569 to set Australia a theoretical victory target of 632.
He has been supported by a debutant (John Hastings), an emerging paceman who recovered from a horrible start to claim the other six wickets (Mitchell Starc), and an injury-prone all-rounder capable of just nine overs in each innings (Shane Watson).
Mitchell Starc celebrates the wicket of AB de Villiers. Photo: Getty Images
Siddle, who has returned to Melbourne, was rested because Cricket Australia feared he would break down during the Test after bowling 142 overs in the past month. Physiotherapist Alex Kountouris said he also had minor hamstring soreness after his heroics in Adelaide.
''Siddle bowled a significant amount of overs in the last Test and was fatigued, but we were also concerned about some hamstring soreness that persisted,'' he said.
Siddle is expected to be available for the first Test against Sri Lanka in Hobart but that will come as little consolation after the contemptuous treatment Australia's second-string attack received from the best team in the world.
''Sids is in OK condition,'' said coach Mickey Arthur. ''He had the hammy checked out, there is nothing massive there. He just needs some downtime. He starts rehab work again on Tuesday. Sids is a definite. Hilf will be available as well. He was very fatigued, just like Sids.''
Ben Hilfenhaus wasn't bowling well enough to be picked and James Pattinson broke down in Adelaide.
Lillee refused to be drawn into the wisdom of resting Siddle, the leader of the attack, with the No. 1 ranking on the line, but said that without him and the injured Pattinson, Michael Clarke didn't have an enforcer to turn to as first Hashim Amla
and then A.B. de Villiers piled on the runs at will.
The most disheartening moment for Hastings, who bowled 19 wicketless overs for 102, was when Amla walked all the way across his stumps and clipped the ball through mid-wicket.
For the second time in the series Clarke had to use eight bowlers in the innings including Ricky Ponting, who last took a Test wicket at Trent Bridge in 2005.
''Great bowling attacks, let's look at [Dale] Steyn, there's a go-to man and that's the man who can break it open. When you can't get a breakthrough, you go to that guy and he often comes through. I guess at the moment you probably can't say that there's a go-to man,'' Lillee said.
''They're all around that 135-140 mark and there's not a guy like Steyn who can up a gear and down a gear. All good attacks have that one go-to person.''
Lillee said his captain, Ian Chappell, would have had to duck for cover if he had told him to rest from a Test. ''If I'd been asked to take a rest … you couldn't have convinced me. Ian [Chappell] said to me, 'I can just imagine me trying to say to you, you're not playing next Test.' He'd have to duck real quick.''
Former Test workhorse and selector Merv Hughes said he doubted a sore and exhausted Siddle would have been the answer.
''I bowled a hell of a lot of overs in the Perth Test when Geoff Lawson got hit [in the jaw] in '88-'89, I got a heap of wickets, and on reflection [captain] Allan Border said I didn't come good for about six to eight weeks after that, and we didn't play anywhere near as much cricket as these blokes play,'' said Hughes, who bowled 73.1 overs for the match in which Lawson was felled by a Curtly Ambrose bouncer.
Lillee nominated Pattinson, the talented and aggressive 22-year-old, as the most likely spearhead in the country.