Stuart Clark’s position is under threat for the deciding Ashes Test at The Oval, but it’s not such a big deal for the experienced fast bowler. He feels his spot has been in danger ever since he crashed into a baggy green in South Africa three years ago. It’s because his bowling looks slower and less effective than it is. It’s why, at 33, he’s no longer a certainty in either one-day or five days games.
In 23 Tests he has 93 wickets and his 3 for 18 in 10 first-innings overs at Headingley flattened England’s middle order, but that performance probably won’t be enough to keep him in the XI for the fifth Test from August 20. Andrew Hilditch, the chairman of selectors, said this week Mitchell Johnson, Ben Hilfenhaus and Peter Siddle remained the main men in Australia’s attack, suggesting Clark would only play at The Oval if the conditions suited four quicks.
The trio delayed Clark’s entry into the series, but he is not miffed by Hilditch’s thoughts. “I think throughout my 23 Tests there has been talk about my spot in every single one of them,” Clark said. “So it is pretty much business as usual for me.”
When in form Johnson is capable of destruction, Siddle provides the batsmen with a hurry-up and Hilfenhaus delivers teasing swing at a testing pace. Then there’s Brett Lee, who offers extreme speed and late movement, but at the moment is fifth in line. While Clark is capable of seam and rushing batsmen, his main weapon is control, a trait losing supporters as quickly as hardcopy newspapers.
In six Tests against England it has been a highly-effective method, upsetting 29 batsmen to show old tricks can work in the modern day. “I enjoy playing cricket against England,” he said. “I have had a bit of success and I feel pretty comfortable when I do play against them, there is no secret to it. I have a pretty simple plan and try to keep it simple and it seems to be working for me at the moment.”
This weekend he and Lee have their final chances to convince the selectors on this tour when they appear in a two-day game against England Lions at Canterbury. At least a couple of the preferred trio will have a rest, leaving Lee and Clark, first picks less than a year ago, to hope for something spectacular.
“You always want to be in the Test team and whether I am is probably neither here nor there,” Clark said.” What I think and what any of the other guys think, and how well they are going and how rapidly they are bowling, doesn’t really matter.”
It’s all up to the selectors and the state of pitch at The Oval, which has supported draws throughout the season for Surrey. That’s all Australia need to seal the Ashes after levelling the contest in Leeds on Sunday.
The final half-day at Headingley was the worst period of the game for Australia, who were attacked by Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann as they delayed the inevitable loss. Clark, who had chipped in with 32 runs the previous day, was treated the most harshly, going for 74 in 11 overs, a reverse of his instant good fortune in the first innings.
His opening effort was more memorable but the late spray, which included being struck for four boundaries in an over by Broad, added some tarnish to his first Test since elbow surgery late last year. “It probably wasn’t a bad day for me because it reminded me that Test cricket is a little bit harder than just running up and bowling and getting a few wickets and a few runs,” he said. “It was a real wake-up call that you need to be on top of your game all the time. If you drop slightly you can pay the ultimate price.” That’s a bit extreme - the spell didn’t cause anyone to stop breathing - but it could be the moment the selectors come back to when they list their XIs for The Oval.
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Post InfoThis entry was posted on Friday, August 14th, 2009 and is filed under Cricket, General.
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