Australia enter their final Ashes warm-up match against the England Second XI tomorrow in less than ideal nick with only their two youngest players, Peter Siddle and Phillip Hughes, in what you would consider Test form.
The batting, although settled because of Watson’s latest injury and the lack of any other batsmen selected, needs runs, and plenty of them, to convince that they are ready to dominate against England’s finest in Cardiff. Sure, they easily produced innings of over 350 against Sussex but no-one scored a century and the middle-order crumbled twice with Brett Lee concealing the failure by making the score respectable with two fighting innings at number eight.
The bowling is still undecided with only Siddle and Johnson worthy of their places for the first Test. Lee will play regardless of his propensity to go for four an over and bowl a no-ball every second one. I suppose if they could carry McDonald in South Africa as a bit part all-rounder then Lee could do the same although he should bat at nine behind the more technically accomplished Johnson.
That leaves one bowling place open with only Clark and Hilfenhaus competing as Hauritz is clearly not up to the mark. Presumably, both quicks will play against The Lions and the better performed should earn the final spot, however, with knowledge of the selector’s conservatism it is likely that Clark will be given the job if he performs admirably at Worcester.
This match against The Lions, Australia’s only First-Class fixture before the First Test, should help all of us ascertain if the BaggyGreens are ready to defend The Ashes. At the moment, I am unsure but it would be wise to wait and see what unfolds over the next week before making a final judgement.