Skipper Steve Smith said today he may play with just four bowlers as rain threatens Australia’s chances of rebounding from their mauling against South Africa in the second Test from Saturday. Heavy downpours are forecast through to Monday’s third day in Hobart, which doesn’t bode well for Australia as they bid to recover from their 177-run thrashing in Perth — their fourth straight Test defeat.
Smith’s underfire side are anxious not to make selection mistakes ahead of the pivotal Hobart game, the second of three Tests, and the 27-year-old captain has several options in mind.
He confirmed that number five batsman Adam Voges was fit to play after hamstring trouble and indicated Australia may line up with six recognised batsmen, throwing into doubt the places of all-rounder Mitchell Marsh and spinner Nathan Lyon.
“No decision yet (on the team), waiting until the morning, having a look at the wicket again and the forecast as well,” Smith told reporters at Bellerive.
“The forecast isn’t great for the next couple of days so we’ll wait until the toss.”
Asked about going in with just four bowlers, as rain delays should mean they will get plenty of rest, Smith said: “Not sure, that’s up to the selectors and they’ll decide tomorrow.
“We’ll wait and see. Anything’s possible, it’ll wait till the morning.”
While that might not bode well for the chances of Marsh keeping his number six spot, after just one half-century in his last 28 Test innings, Smith remained coy.
“You might not need to have that extra bowling option if there’s going to be lots of rain around and the bowlers are going to get some adequate rest with that,” he said.
“There’s possibilities that we could go in with six genuine batsmen but we’ll wait and see in the morning.”
Australia were forced into two changes from the Perth Test line-up with opener Shaun Marsh breaking a finger and paceman Peter Siddle suffering a back strain.
Joe Burns is expected to open the innings with David Warner, while Joe Mennie is likely to make his Test debut. Tasmanian paceman Jackson Bird has been added to the squad.
Selectors also initially included Callum Ferguson as cover for Voges, so he could also be an option if Australia decide on an extra batsman.
Smith’s captaincy has come under heavy criticism during Australia’s losing run, with Test legend Shane Warne claiming that off-spinner Lyon was under-bowled in Perth.
But Smith defended his leadership.
“Warney’s entitled to his opinion, but I stand by the way I did things,” he said.
“We saw in that (Perth) game that the reverse swing was the biggest player in the game and it was the decision to be made whether the quicks were going to do the job and get the ball reversing.
“I went with that option to bowl the quicks probably for a more prolonged period than I would have done possibly at any other stage.”
But even though Lyon is Australia’s wicket-taking spinner with 213 victims in 58 Tests since 2011, he could still miss out in Hobart.
“I’ve never done it I guess in my stint as captain (not had a specialist spinner),” Smith said. “I’m not really sure that’s the way we’re thinking.”
Australia (from): David Warner, Joe Burns, Usman Khawaja, Steven Smith (capt), Adam Voges, Callum Ferguson, Mitchell Marsh, Peter Nevill, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Joe Mennie, Nathan Lyon, Jackson Bird.