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Australia look good but Symonds omission could weigh
In an earlier post, Julian Linden argued that Australia’s cricketers have all the firepower needed to retain the Ashes in England despite some relatively new faces in the squad.
Here Ed Osmond takes a different view, wondering if the absence of Andrew Symonds and Australia’s lack of spin options may help the English.
England should be highly delighted by Australia’s decision to omit all-rounder Andrew Symonds from their Ashes squad.
The big Queenslander may have had disciplinary issues over the past year, but his cricketing ability should not be under-estimated.
Always a talented stroke player, Symonds has added steel and composure to his batting, which he showed in making vital test centuries against England in Melbourne in 2006 and India in Sydney in 2008.
His gentle medium-pacers or off-spinners do not usually cause too many problems for batsmen but Symonds has a presence which makes him an ideal potential partnership breaker and he is one of the best outfielders in world cricket.
Australia have high hopes of exciting young batsman Phil Hughes who has been in a rich vein form for English county Middlesex and his opening partnership with the experienced Simon Katich will be vital.
Katich struggled badly on the 2005 Ashes tour but through sheer weight of runs earned a recall to the test side and has performed consistently in recent series.
Ricky Ponting, Mike Hussey and Michael Clarke should score the bulk of the team’s runs in a quality middle-order but if any of them fail to find their form there are no other specialist batsmen in the squad and the selectors may rue the omission of the experienced Brad Hodge.
The seam bowling department has been boosted by the returns of fit-again Brett Lee and Stuart Clark to join Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus. Lee, however, was struggling for form before his recent injury problems and will be under pressure to reclaim his status as Australia’s leading fast bowler.
Spin is also a potential problem for the Australians with the largely defensive Nathan Hauritz the only specialist slow bowler in the party.
The Australians have tried a number of spinners since the retirement of Shane Warne and Hauritz will need to take wickets for them as well as play the containing role for which he is ideally suited.
PHOTO: Australia’s Andrew Symonds dives for a ball during the final day of their second test in St. John’s, Antigua June 3, 2008. REUTERS/Andy Clark