Pup tears up tip sheet and tells quicks to rip in
DOSSIER or no dossier, Australia's hungry fast bowlers have been given licence to bombard South Africa with bouncers in an effort to get under the thick skins of the world No.1 Test nation at the Gabba.
Australian captain Michael Clarke said on Thursday a final decision was yet to be made on whether to pick an all-out, four-man pace attack for the first Test against the Proteas, but the likelihood is they will resist that temptation and include spinner Nathan Lyon despite his modest early-season form.
That would leave Peter Siddle, James Pattinson and Ben Hilfenhaus with a mission to unhinge the tourists' heavyweight batsmen. Siddle and Pattinson, in particular, will be given the specific responsibility to bully, with Australia hopeful that short-pitched bowling can unsettle run machines Jacques Kallis, Hashim Amla and J.P. Duminy, as outlined in a tip sheet on the Proteas leaked, published and then discredited on Thursday.
Michael Clarke ... is yet to make a final decision on the team's attacking strategy. Photo: Getty Images
''I wouldn't be surprised if you see plenty of short stuff, that's for sure,'' Clarke said. ''You've got four guys that bowl well-and-truly over 140km/h, they're not shy on bouncers whether they be in the centre or in the nets. The young quicks know what they have to do.
''They know how important it is that they execute their skills but I've made it very clear that they need to keep the same aggression they had last summer against India. We understand there is a line that you can't cross but we'll be pushing that line.''
NSW left-armer Mitchell Starc has all week been the likely 12th man, with Clarke leaning towards Lyon as well as Hilfenhaus, whose endurance value is heightened in the absence of injured all-rounder Shane Watson.
Clarke left open the possibility of sitting Lyon out instead and throwing four quicks at South Africa - who will include leg-spinner Imran Tahir - but the chances of an all-out pace line-up were considered remote. Clarke is generally reticent to enter a Test without a specialist spin bowler and it would take extraordinary circumstances to be swayed from that stance.
The forecast for cloudy conditions in Brisbane on Friday and Saturday is, however, a potential factor in changing Clarke's mind.
''I was expecting to have a decision for you today,'' Clarke said on Thursday. ''But the wicket has changed a little bit since yesterday and I need to wait and see if it changes any more come tomorrow morning. I guess the weather upstairs plays a big part as well, if it is overcast compared to if the sun is shining. I see the forecast is OK for the week but I really want to wait until tomorrow morning to give ourselves a really good look at it.
''We're still deciding whether we play four fast bowlers or whether we play three fast bowlers and Nathan.''
In a strange development Australia will go into the first Test without a vice-captain, a role usually performed by Watson, but in the event of Clarke having to leave proceedings Ponting, the ex-captain, would be the obvious candidate to take the reins. The 37-year-old has successfully recovered from a hamstring twinge that led to his withdrawal from Tasmania's Sheffield Shield match against Victoria a week ago, according to Clarke.
''Ricky is fully fit and looking forward to the challenge,'' Clarke said. ''He's pulled up really well.''
Australia will reclaim the world No.1 Test ranking from South Africa if they win the three-Test series.
Australia (likely): David Warner, Ed Cowan, Rob Quiney, Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke (c), Michael Hussey, Matthew Wade, Peter Siddle, James Pattinson, Ben Hilfenhaus, Nathan Lyon.
12th man: Mitchell Starc.
South Africa (likely): Graeme Smith (c), Alviro Petersen, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, A.B. de Villiers, Jacques Rudolph, J.P. Duminy, Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Imran Tahir. 12th man: Rory Kleinveldt.