A victory to the Baggy Green against the English Lions has only toughened the situation for the selectors as we come closer to the final Test of the 2009 Ashes, where the Urn will find it's resting place till the next encounter.
The Baggy Green won by 103 runs, with stand out performances. Yes, it may be a practice match, but every game in an Ashes series is a game that counts and I see no reason for this game to be treated differently. The only thing to note with a two day game is that valuable time in both batting and bowling must be allocated.
Queensland Bulls keeper, Chris Hartley, got his chance to play for the squad. With Brad Haddin needing his fitness to be at the most ultimate level, and Graham Manou needing to watch out for his own good, Hartley was given the nod to play for the team. He is over to get stuck into some Domestic cricket and the timing served well in order to rest Hads and Graham.
He has 4 catches to round up his experience behind the stumps with the Australian squad.
Batting first with a squad stacked up with bowlers, it was pretty straight forward stuff from the boys.
Simon Katich had a short stay, but I won't read into this one too much as with patience and knowledge of 5 days of cricket ahead of him, Katto can apply himself to any Test match scenario. More importantly was Shane Watson keeping his runs ablaze! Watto made a fourth consecutive fifty, this time painfully falling 5 runs short of a century. With 15 fours and a six, it was a break in play that ended up cutting his concentration short. Watto has recently expressed his desire to make a Test match century, and the way he is gunning it I wouldn't put it out of the equation.
After Phillip Hughes was given the nod to take some time away from the game and work on some noted short-ball flaws, Watto had to step into open. While he can open (notably in ODI cricket) and is versatile, his Test stats weren't great and the concern of not taking a 'specialist' opener as a back-up quickly alerted the selectors. Watto has stepped in comfortably, has stood up to the opening spells from the English bowlers seeing the ball wear down but playing a natural attacking innings.
Ricky Ponting made 45 runs, which is all he needs at the moment. I did read that his innings started off a bit scratchy with an edge to the slips, but managed to pull his game together and with Watto, again, built a neat partnership.
Michael Hussey made a good imprint on the innings with 65 (again) but the supporter's will be more aware of Huss' need to get these runs in the Test. Even when Huss has gotten himself into a good position he has given it away. I am still wandering whether Huss is creating a bit too much pressure upon himself? I can't see how he has lost any of his classy skill. But what I can see is alot of frustration in his game, but I will continue to back a bloke who has been such a standout batsman for Ausralia.
Besides Nathan Hauritz, who was unbeaten on 34*, there were no other contributions worth digging into for discussion.
I think it would be better to wait for the 5th Test to commence, as Michael Clarke (our most solid batsman at the moment) and Brad Haddin were not apart of the recent match, and while he didn't make a big impression on this game, Marcus North is settled into a good groove.
The bowling is where the focus will be on.
Brett Lee has once again delivered the goods in a practive match, and settled the attack with figures of 3.37 off 16 overs. Sensational, but will it be enough for Binga to get the call-up for the 5th Test. He's had a tough wait up until now after an emotionally upsetting injury set his chances of an early Ashes appearance.
With such an impact in the early stages of the innings, it will have selectors contemplating Stuart Clark and Lee.
But this is a tough position. Ben Hilfenhaus has been terrific and our strongest performer, undoubtedly our most consistent, needs to play and being given a rest will make his selection evidently given.
Therefore Peter Siddle is the guy who once again will be put to the test, with Clark and Binga.
If Sid's were too be overlooked, Stuart Clark would be selected. Stuart makes such an impact on the team when he is selected, and just his presence is hassling enough to the opposition! Sure, his second spell in the 4th Test wasn't great, but under what circumstances?
Nathan Hauritz played well and has boosted his chances, but will the selectors opt for a specialist spinner over the part-time spinners? Marcus North and Katto picked up a wicket each, which would have been done to monitor the part-time candidates duo.
At the same time Brett Lee gives the batting option too, which puts him up against Mitchell Johnson. Mitch had a great 4th Test and found some form and confidence. I cannot see the selectors passing him off for Binga. He gives us that extra strength in the batting order in testing times.
Sid's may have picked up a 5 wicket haul to push his case, but is it enough when looking at the experience of Clark and continual intensity displayed by Binga as he fights his way to get that new ball?
Looking at all the above, the selectors have to take into consideration:
Experience, recent performances, capable performances, team strategy, squad capabilities from 1-11, injury risks.
There are some serious decisions to be made for the 5th Test!
I have always been in favour in balancing experience with fresh blood, and this is applicable to both the batting and bowling departments.
The bowling department is a very difficult set-up to try and configure for such an epic encounter, but it is a decision that won't be taken lightly.
My gut feeling is that Hauritz will not be included, while Hilfy, Mitch, Sid's and Lee get the call up.
As brilliant as I rate Stuart Clark and it seems many have also forgotten the destructive platform he founded to break away England's batting fort's in the 4th Test, one simply has to look at his history with the team, and his position has always been a fifty-fifty. And the times when he was most certainly needed, injury was there to affect those chances!
The Selectors need to get it right, but whatever the team talk is and the determined plans set for the English team, we won't have any feed on this until match day.
So, it's simply open for discussion.
Here's a tough one for all of you.
If you guys were given the chance to make the decision for the Baggy Green squad for the 5th Test, who would be your starting 11?