Monday, July 25, 2011

Harris key to Australia's attack - Bayliss

Ryan Harris tore through England on the fourth morning, Australia v England, 3rd Test, Perth, 4th day, December 19, 2010
Ryan Harris could be a key man for Australia in Sri Lanka© Getty Images

Trevor Bayliss, the former Sri Lanka coach, has nominated Ryan Harris as the Australian bowler most likely to trouble a formidable home batting line-up during next month's Test series in the island nation.

Harris is one of numerous Australian players waiting nervously to discover whether they will be chosen in the first Test squad to be led by the new captain Michael Clarke, after the Australia A tour of Zimbabwe clouded the selectors' options almost as much as it shed light on them. The squad will be announced on Tuesday morning.

Told earlier this year that he was being considered as more of a Test match bowler, Harris, 31, was omitted from the limited-overs squad for the Sri Lanka tour despite showing he had returned to full fitness during the Indian Premier League. Bayliss said Harris' combination of speed, skid and movement both ways would make him the sort of bowler capable of troubling the likes of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene.

"From a pace point of view someone like Ryan Harris could be dangerous," Bayliss told ESPNcricinfo. "He is someone who bustles in, a bit quicker than what you think, but bowls a fairly consistent line and length, but nips the ball about and can nip it about off the seam and through the air a bit.

"Someone like that on their wickets over there ... early on with those wickets you get a little bit of swing and a little bit of seam, and someone who maybe skids onto the bat a bit quicker than what you think, and maybe nipping it back in, I think he could do well. [He is] someone who can bowl reverse swing as well when the ball is older."

Beyond Harris, the questions surrounding the Australian attack are many and varied. Ben Hilfenhaus and Peter Siddle, the opening bowlers for much of the Ashes last summer, were conspicuously toothless with the new ball in Zimbabwe. Across the two-day and first-class portions of the tour, not once was either able to claim a wicket in their first spells to the top order.

The left-armer Mitchell Starc fared better, while Trent Copeland, another possible selection, bowled long spells but tended to struggle for wickets. Of the touring spin bowlers Michael Beer and Jason Krejza both had their moments of success counter-balanced by the odd expensive spell. Nathan Hauritz will not be considered for reasons of fitness, while Steve Smith's value as a Test match slow bowler is yet to be proven.

"From a spin point of view it depends a little on who they pick, most of them unless it is Nathan Hauritz, the rest of the guys haven't had a lot of experience in the subcontinent," said Bayliss. "So how they handle the pressure of having to bowl against batters who have been brought up on spin-friendly wickets, how they go about their craft under the pressure the Sri Lankan batters will undoubtedly put on Australia's spinners.

"It's not going to be easy, there are going to be some difficult times trying to get through the Sri Lankan batting order. You've got seven guys in the likely batting order to whom they're going to have to bowl very well and there's going to be some hard work to get through those seven.

"Sangakkara and Jayawardene are the main stumbling blocks, and if you can get those two out of the way, it puts a lot of pressure on the rest of the batting order. You can't take the rest of the guys lightly, but it does put a little bit of extra pressure on the rest of the guys when the two best players don't score any."

Australia's batting appears a little more settled, as Phillip Hughes secured his place alongside Shane Watson by maintaining a rich vein of form that began in the closing weeks of the Australian domestic season. Usman Khawaja's lack of runs in Zimbabwe should not preclude his inclusion, and Shaun Marsh seems likely to stay on in reserve beyond the limited-overs matches.

Australia's batsmen have shown fallibility against quality bowling in recent times, and Bayliss said they would need to be aggressive in order to avoid becoming tangled in the web of the local spinners Rangana Herath, Suraj Randiv and Ajantha Mendis.

"In the Ashes last summer it was more about pace bowlers, but in Sri Lanka it will be more about spin, and Australia's batting against spin," Bayliss said. "Against spin you've got to be a bit more proactive, and try to put the pressure back onto the bowler, so it'll be interesting to see how Australia's batsmen go about facing the Sri Lankan spinners."

Possible squad Michael Clarke (capt), Shane Watson (vice-capt), Phillip Hughes, Usman Khawaja, Ricky Ponting, Michael Hussey, Shaun Marsh, Brad Haddin (wk), Steve Smith, Mitchell Johnson, Ryan Harris, Peter Siddle, Michael Beer or Jason Krejza, Mitchell Starc.

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