Boon hints at all out pace
BRYCE McGain insists he can play a key role for Australia in the first Test against South Africa, but Test selector David Boon isn't so sure the Wanderers pitch will suit a leg-spinner.
Boon said on Monday all 14 members of Australia's touring party were in the mix for spots in the side, although off-spinner Nathan Hauritz appears a rank outsider.
Boon said selectors had to make a call on retaining left-arm quick Doug Bollinger or replacing him with Tasmanian outswing bowler Ben Hilfenhaus.
He felt both bowled well in last week's drawn three-day game in Potchefstroom against a South Africa President's XI.
“It was a difficult wicket for them to bowl on and I suppose in a way we've probably got a choice to make there and it's not going to be an easy one,” Boon told reporters in Johannesburg on Monday.
That leaves 12 players so the remaining question would be whether Australia play off-spinner Marcus North and medium-pacer Andrew McDonald as all-rounders at No.6 and No.7 with three fast bowlers, or have McDonald make way for fellow Victorian McGain.
“We have looked at the history of the last six or eight Tests at Johannesburg,” Boon said.
“It's essentially a seamer's wickets where the new ball will seam around a bit. It will swing as well.
“Spinners can have a role, but they don't appear to have had a massive impact in Test matches here.
“I notice in the last five (matches) spinners have taken 10 wickets.
“In the first innings it appears most teams get a decent score and then it gets harder and a little bit up and down in the second dig.
“We've got to take that into account but I wouldn't discount the fact that we still might play a spinner anyway.”
McGain, the 36-year-old who missed out on his Test debut in India last year because of a shoulder injury, maintains side-spin isn't his only weapon.
“Where there is seam movement, the ball certainly spins as well,” McGain said.
“Good bounce is always a very good weapon for a spinner to have, so it's not all about sideways spin.”
Boon said McDonald and Warriors skipper North, who dominated last week's tour game with two half-centuries and 6-69 with his off-spinners, had plenty to offer the Test side.
North is likely to bat at No.6 and McDonald could hang onto his place by slipping down to No.7 and playing a back-up role with the ball. McDonald's innings of 15 on debut in Sydney last month against the Proteas was hardly inspiring but Boon says it was a case of being “as nervous as hell”.
One leading bookmaker in Australia has listed the tourists at $4.10 to win the first Test, South Africa at 2.78 and a draw at $2.48.