Today Cricket Australia will announce the
Australian squad for the South African tour beginning Friday week in
Johannesburg, hopefully solving two equally puzzling conundrums: how to fit all
the form batsmen in, and where to find a top-class pace bowler.

After two Test series and the VB one-dayers
at home, Australia boasts a batting line-up in both forms of the game that is,
on its day, unrivalled anywhere in the world for depth. Depending on the
colour of the uniform, you can automatically select Ponting, Gilchrist, Hayden,
Langer, Clarke, Katich, Symonds and Hussey any day. All-rounder Shane Watson
has recovered from his shoulder injury, Phil Jaques is beating the door down
and there’s still the possibility of Damien Martyn pulling himself out of his
post-Ashes funk. Brad Hodge may find himself the man with the shortest
international career to have a 200 in it after spoiling chances over the
summer, and James Hopes hasn’t faired much better.

That’s thirteen names already, and we
haven’t reached the bowlers.

Here, the selectors have the opposite
problem. Spinners Warne, MacGill and Brad Hogg are all first-rate, but with
Glenn McGrath sadly unavailable, the pace bowling cupboard looks sparse. Brett
Lee is world-class and Nathan Bracken’s pace variations are developing nicely,
but the young bowlers called in over summer have collectively failed. Only Clark has shown the potential
to step up in class from what worked at state level to the brass ring of
international cricket.

So who else is out there? Well, there’s
Jason Gillespie, who has demanded selection with consistent performances at
state level. He has the experience and the form to add some weight to the very
light pace attack. He has to go to South Africa. With Jacques Kallis, Andre Nel and Makhaya Ntini all healed, Australia
is going to need all the bowling it can get for the return series.

The Crikey Australian Squad:

Ricky Ponting (c)
Adam Gilchrist (vc)
Nathan Bracken
Stuart Clark
Michael Clarke
Jason Gillespie
Matthew Hayden
Brad Hogg
Michael Hussey
Simon Katich
Justin Langer
Brett Lee
Stuart MacGill
Damien Martyn
Andrew Symonds
Shane Warne