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Ashes 2010: Jonathan Agnew column

Jonathan Agnew
By Jonathan Agnew
BBC cricket correspondent in Australia

There were not many fans who braved the Sydney rain for the squad announcement
Australia made the announcement in a rainy Sydney, which might explain why very few fans turned up to see their cricket heroes

The announcement that Australia have named a 17-strong squad for the first Ashes Test against England has certainly got people talking down under.

They aim to take only 12 or 13 to Brisbane, where the first Test starts on 25 November, but this underlines the uncertainty that exists over the form and fitness of several players. It seems as though they have no real idea what their starting XI will be, and that must be a concern for them.

They made the announcement in a rainy Sydney, which might explain why very few fans turned up to see their cricket heroes.

The final decision will be made after this week's round of Sheffield Shield matches, which are now certain to be ultra competitive.

But in putting pressure on the likes of Michael Hussey and Marcus North with named replacements in young batsmen Callum Ferguson and Usman Khawaja, aren't the selectors now duty bound to replace them if they fail?

In the bowling department, Australia have been extremely cautious by naming three spinners - Nathan Hauritz, leg-spinner Steve Smith, and left-arm spinner Xavier Doherty.

New South Wales' Hauritz and Doherty of Tasmania will be under the spotlight as both will be playing against each other this week, while Smith is widely regarded as a good batsman but not yet up to being a front-line Test spinner.


Australia head into the Ashes with poor Test form, having lost the two-Test series in India last month, as well as being beaten by Pakistan in the final Test at Headingley in the summer.

Meanwhile England have decided that their main bowling attack, namely James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann and Steven Finn will head to Brisbane early instead of playing the final warm-up against Australia A in Hobart.

Coach Andy Flower said he was surprised the issue had become such a debating point in the media.

But it is fair to say, now that we are all experiencing Hobart's chilly wind and rain, it seems a sensible strategy.

Key to this is whether or not the management and, crucially, the bowlers themselves feel that they have had enough match preparation to go into the first Test without another game. They think that they have.

Broad will head to Brisbane early to prepare for first Test
Broad will head to Brisbane early to prepare for the first Test

Broad, Anderson, Finn and Swann will join up with England's performance squad which, in effect, is shadowing the main tour until Christmas, providing cover and support if necessary.

The performance squad players are now in Brisbane warming up, playing some cricket and waiting for the England party to arrive.

It means Monty Panesar, Tim Bresnan, Ajmal Shahzad and Chris Tremlett will get some overs under their belts as they will form the attack to take on a very competitive Australia A side.

However, there is an element of risk attached in that the tour has proceeded so smoothly so far for England that it would be a shame if it were to lose its positive direction with a poor performance this week.

None of this attack has bowled a ball in anger for two months, and they are up against a strong batting line-up which includes Test hopefuls Khawaja and Ferguson, and is being televised live both in England and Australia.

Some will argue that the Test players should enjoy the experience of the toughest preparation, and my answer to that is that had this match been scheduled anywhere in Australia other than Hobart, they probably would have done.

Listen to the Ashes live on Test Match Special on BBC 5 live sports extra, Radio 4 LW and online (UK users only) - series starts 25 November 2010. Archive: Relive past Ashes series

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see also
Monday's Ashes gossip column
15 Nov 10 |  Cricket
Australia selectors drop Hauritz
20 Nov 10 |  Australia
England bowlers to miss warm-up
15 Nov 10 |  England
England openers hit tons in draw
13 Nov 10 |  England
Strauss ton sets up England win
07 Nov 10 |  England
Finn can cope with Ashes sledging
21 Sep 10 |  England
Victorious England regain Ashes
23 Aug 09 |  England
Aussies complete Ashes whitewash
05 Jan 07 |  England
England in Australia 2010-11
08 Oct 09 |  Cricket
Live cricket on the BBC
26 Oct 11 |  Cricket

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