Adelaide aches present Perth pace puzzler

Most assumed that at the start of day five in the Adelaide test that Australia’s next step in the journey back to cricketing numero uno was a fait accompli. Grab the six wickets on a fifth day wicket, don’t rip any soft tissue and jet to Perth 1-0 up backed with a ton of propulsion.

Some of the confident and thirsty were even saying that it could’ve been wrapped up in time for Coronas and Khe Sanh in the sheds at lunchtime. Too easy!

However, thanks to an old school display of Protea concrete lead by the superhuman one-test wall Faf du Plessis, with similar scaffolding from co-stars Jacques Kallis and AB de Villiers, the home side’s charge to get their paws an inch closer to the throne was thwarted in a nail-biter finale which is sure to be a piece of Channel Nine memorabilia within hours.

Peter Siddle being propped up by one of the friendly staff at the Adelaide aged care facility.

Thanks to the events of the last day, affairs for Australia have now swung from possible pre-tea esky action and a cherished series advantage to unlikely grid locked parity and selection sticklers coming out of the ying yang.

With a myriad of factors and circumstances arising from day five combined with John Inverarity throwing a wide selection net like a gluttonous whale trawler and returning with a school of slingers spilling over the side of the tinny, a Tony Barber-load of questions have been tossed up with the pick of the bowling board loaded to the back molars.

The list for Perth contains series mainstays Peter Siddle, Ben Hilfenhaus, Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon with reinforcements John Hastings, Josh Hazelwood and Mitchell Johnson added, not to mention the return of Shane Watson, making it a trundler’s showcase that needs whittling at great haste.

What shape will the team balance take, and how is a bunch of buggered blokes going to be able to present selectors with enough to come to an educated decision on the back of limited net sessions and rehab data inside three day’s time?

Let’s get the fundamentals out of the way first. We all know that Perth is a romantic getaway for the quicks, with its bounce and grill-twisting potency presenting heavy pheromones to selectors to go with a four-pronged flame-thrower. Australia has won handsomely in it’s last two visits to the village of velocity, both times opting to turf the twirl and go for pure perfume-ball pace which left both India and England in a state of quivering gravy.

However, with Watson sure to return to the side and with confirmation that he will be able to bowl his valuable insurance seam, does this open up the possibility of taking Lyon in as a luxury option under the shade that the banged-up all-rounder’s inclusion brings?

Once we work that out, then it’s down to the job of building a pace attack that will bring Australia 20 wickets, which is yet to be achieved against this heavy duty South African batting unit so far in the series.

Hilfenhaus: valiant, but needs to lift.

Peter Siddle was simply outstanding as he heroically threw himself into the role of under-fed draughthorse on the last day, going within a whisker of pulling the match out of the fire for Michael Clarke on the volition of memory and a slight zephyr. If he didn’t look like he belonged in an old folk’s home being spooned pureed spinach at game’s end, he would be first in for the decider.

Considering that he had to be helped from the field like a wheezing smoker at the close of play does not augur well for backing up in three day’s time. How much oxygen and nod time is required to restore a vegan’s power within 72 hours?

If Siddle is picked, never will he have sweated on the result of a toss as much as he will in Perth, and he will have the top three on notice that if they bat first and collectively flop again, he has full rights to launch hailstones in their direction as he burns off the lactic acid of Adelaide in the WACA ice bath.

Then there is Ben Hilfenhaus, who was also crisply toasted after nearly five sessions of doing the work of 1.5 burly seamers in James Pattinson’s absence, and with his borderline returns so far in the series, he will also be far from a padlock job.

Support crew wise, the puzzle thickens into a jumbo Sudoku.

If society’s laws are considered kosher in cricket, then Mitchell Starc should get an opportunity for a crack after patiently waiting in line for two tests. In saying that, disdain for loyalty and erratic relocation of the goal posts has been a trait of Australian cricket overlords in the past, not to mention the fact that he’s no longer the only left-armer in the party.

Mitchell Starc should be able to get a trade-in on his training gear for the creams. SHOULD.

That brings us to the hearty debate topic of Mitchell Johnson. Some say he’s the perfect horse for the course of the WACA, whereas others say that just because this is the only ground he doesn’t get hammered at, it shouldn’t mean it’s the domain of which he is master. However, you can’t deny that he’s ripped a few new ones for rivals at the place over the years.

John Hastings and Josh Hazelwood seem to be the most likely pair to be sent back to Shield cricket with a free tracksuit, however there are strong whispers that Hazelwood is closer to a gig than most expect after some glowing report cards from various top order batting opponents on the domestic circuit so far this summer.

In what shapes as a surprise gift of a test match grand final with an abbreviated build-up, surely at least one of the two old boys in Siddle and Hilfenhaus must be retained under the guideline of experience for epics. To carry a greenhorn attack without the steadying influence of at least one of these two would be a booming risk.

And speaking of risk and experience, there’s Johnson. He is showing consistent signs of his old plasma-coated highlights, but in the words of the tweeny youth, do we dare go there?

Perhaps it is the dice-roller that Australia needs to break this super-glued stalemate.

Whichever way it goes, the selectors have limited time on this finely balanced brain-bender of major importance.

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