Perth: Australia are considering an all-pace bowling attack for the crucial third Ashes Test, but skipper Ricky Ponting admitted on Wednesday he was still unsure of his best starting lineup.
With less than 24 hours to go, Ponting said he wanted more time before naming his side for the Test at the WACA ground in Perth, which Australia must win to have a chance of regaining the Ashes.
England arrived in Perth on Monday 1-0 up in the five-match series saying they knew their best 11, but Australia are still wavering over who to play on what is expected to be a lively pitch.
Little-known left-arm spinner Michael Beer was picked for the Australian squad and looked likely to make his debut, but Ponting seemed to be having doubts at his pre-match press conference.
“We haven’t got a team yet, we’ve had a good look at the wicket this afternoon, it’s changed a little bit since we’ve been here on Wednesday so we want to just want to have a closer look at it again tomorrow before we finalise what our 11 will be,” Ponting said.
Ben Hilfenhaus and Ryan Harris had been expected to lead the Australian attack with either struggling Mitchell Johnson or first Test hat-trick hero Peter Siddle as third seamer and Beer lining up as specialist spinner.
But after talking to the WACA head groundsman, Ponting said he wanted to delay his final call.
“It’s different grass than there’s been on the wicket before, so we’ve got a lot of things that we’ve got to think about yet before we finalise it,” he said.
“It’s important to actually get a good feel of it tomorrow morning and just see how hard it is on the surface and if there’s any moisture left in the surface before we make a decision.”
Leg-spinning all-rounder Steve Smith will bat at six, Ponting said, and the home side also have all-rounder and opening batsman Shane Watson as a seam bowling option.
The last time Australia went into a Test without a specialist spinner was at the WACA in 2008, when they lost to India by 72 runs, but Ponting said his four seamers all had something to offer.
However, his predecessor as Australian captain, Steve Waugh, said he wanted to see Beer play.
“There is no point picking the guy if he’s not going to play,” Waugh said.
“As a captain you need the balance in the side and you’ve got enough quick bowlers in the side, Shane Watson is the fourth quick bowler.
“I can’t see why he wouldn’t play having been picked in the squad.”
England go into the Test in buoyant mood after their crushing win at Adelaide, but Ponting questioned how the visitors would cope with WACA conditions.
“The last couple of results haven’t been brilliant for us here but I honestly feel the pitch conditions here are as foreign to English players as probably anywhere else in the world and hopefully we can exploit that this week,” he said.
The tourists have won just one of 11 Tests at the WACA, but captain Andrew Strauss said they were fortunate to have spent 10 days here at the start of the tour.
Strauss said England were determined to continue their form from Adelaide, where they crushed the hosts by an innings and 71 runs.
“We have got some good momentum in the series from Adelaide, but that counts for nothing if we give it away here this week,” he said.
“It is about us keeping our feet on the ground and remembering what we have done well in this series and making sure we replicate that.”
Strauss confirmed he had settled on the side, but refused to say whether Chris Tremlett or Tim Bresnan would replace the injured Stuart Broad.
Giant Middlesex seamer Tremlett’s ability to extract bounce is tipped to earn him the nod over the Yorkshireman in the only change to the side that won in Adelaide.