After Australia's debacle at Adelaide, it's back to the drawing board for the Aussie selectors. Captain Ricky Ponting has already had a meeting with the chairman of selectors Andrew Hilditch, to begin taking calls on who to drop from the side and who to bring in and whether any of those decisions would make a difference.
The biggest quandary facing the committee is what to do with their bowling attack. By all counts, it proved to be rather toothless, allowing the English batsmen to dominate and amass a gigantic winning total of 620/5 in the Adelaide Test. Xavier Doherty, Marcus North, Dough Bollinger and Peter Siddle have their heads hanging under the axe.
The experiment to use Xavier Doherty in place of the more experienced Nathan Hauritz has evidently backfired. In the first two tests of the ongoing series, Doherty's left arm orthodox has been lacklustre with him taking just 3 wickets for 102. He was smashed all over the park by Kevin Pietersen in Adelaide Test and mostly seemed quite innocuous to the other batsmen.
The selectors may consider the legspinning allrounder Steven Smith to replace Doherty. He took four wickets in first-class match at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Dec 8. But he's had little experience at the top-most level having just played two Tests in which he has taken three wickets. Hauritz on the other hand, looks like the strongest contender for the spinner's spot, having garnered 63 wickets in 17 matches at a passable average of 34.98. North is also in the fray, despite a poor show in the last Test where he went wicketless and only managed scores of 22 and 26.
There might not be any changes in the batting department, except a replacement for opener Simon Katich who has been ruled out of the rest of the series owning to an achilles tendon injury. The leading contender to take his place is Philip Hughes, who scored 86 in a Test in March. Last month, he scored 81 for Australia A against England. "He's got a few runs under his belt lately," Ponting said. "He's probably the first cab off the rank."
The biggest riddle for the selectors is the pace-bowling department. The speedsters have only managed to ensnare 16 scalps in the first two tests, with 10 of those coming in the first day of the first test. Doug Bollinger was completely ineffectual at Adelaide, only managing 1 scalp from 29 overs while conceding 130 runs at nearly 4.5 runs an over. He is likely to be the first casualty when the team for the third Test comes out.
Peter Siddle's efficacy has diminished drastically from a dream start at the Gabba when he took 6 wickets on the first day. But since then, he has picked up no wickets! He had a particular unsavoury time in the last Test where he went wicketless for a 121 runs in 30 overs. The bowlers axed from the first Test - Ben Hilfenhaus and Mitchell Johnson - might get a rethink at his cost. Ryan Harris is the only paceman assured for the next Test after being Australia's most successful bowler at Adelaide with 2/84.
So, as the selectors have their backs to the wall, they will have to come up with a potent combination again in order to take the fight to the Englishmen and hopefully draw level and take the lead in the five-test series.