Having had a look at the Oval’s bitumen like pitch, Australia’s last hope of finding a result in this series might be up in Headingley. At this stage only one day out of the first four looks like rain, but rain is never far away.
Even without the rain Australia has selection worries. Brett Lee has stated he is 100% fit, Shane Watson who has recently been instated as selector (that’s not true) has said he isn’t. Brad Haddin is trying desperately to show he can keep with a broken finger. Michael Clarke has a stomach strain. Peter Siddle is ill from trying too hard. And Stuart Clark keeps introducing himself to the selectors so they remember who he is.
20 wickets is what Australia needs. Somehow. Nathan Hauritz, who went from club spinner to out bowling Graeme Swann, might be the man to miss. Australia has Marcus North who is realistically no worse a bowler than Hauritz, and Ricky has already said publicly that Hauritz is not a strike bowler.
An attack of Johnson, Hilfenhaus, Clark and Siddle seems most likely.
On current form they don’t look likely to take 20 wickets, but they only rabbit in the hat is Brett Lee, and if Shane Watson says he isn’t fit, who am I to argue.
England have their troubles. Andrew Flintoff is now more National Gimp than National Hero. Whether he plays or not (looks like he wont) it is doubtful his bowling will be a factor. Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann are playing as specialist tail end batsmen, and their only consistent bowling weapons (Onions and Anderson) can’t get a wicket when it doesn’t swing.
Their batting isn’t much better. Three of their top four look out of form or worked out, and Jonathan Trott (England’s latest South African recruit) has been brought into the squad as cover for either Ravi Bopara or Andrew Flintoff. Plus Steve Harmison has a nasty blister. A very nasty blister.
This series is looking more and more likely like it could end up as the statistical anomaly series. Australia has five centuries to England’s one. Four of the top five wicket takers are Australian. Yet the only stat that matters is the one win England have.
With the weather and the form of the Australian bowling unit it is hard to see exactly how Australia will win this test. They could try more bomb threats, but that seems unlikely.
In the UK all the news over here is about whether it is ok to boo Ricky Ponting or not. Of course it is ok. Boo him; it is a sign of respect. No one is booing Mitchell Johnson at the moment. I should say no Englishman is. Booing him.