Sport Cricket Cricket: Australians ready for ‘Bodyline’ at the MCG

Cricket: Australians ready for ‘Bodyline’ at the MCG

Australia's Matthew Wade ducks under a short ball from New Zealand's Neil Wagner. Photo: AAP
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Australia expect the rest of the series against New Zealand to resemble Bodyline after short-pitch bowling in Perth succeeded in putting the local bats under pressure in their second innings.

Pace bowling is increasingly looking the key to the series, although both teams suffered injury setbacks that will require cover going on to the MCG and SCG.

Josh Hazlewood (hamstring) is out for the Aussies and the tourists have lost Lockie Ferguson (calf), although they will get Trent Boult (rib) back for the Melbourne Test.

On the weekend, the Black Caps set fielders with leg-side catchers both behind the wicket and for the pull shot and sprayed the Australians with bouncers.

Matthew Wade was regularly struck on the body by Neil Wagner leaving him with a sore finger and welting on his arm, while Pat Cummins also struck Black Cap BJ Watling on the helmet.

All of Australia’s top six fell to short balls in the second innings, as David Warner, Steve Smith, Marnus Labuschagne and Wade were all caught pulling in the 296-run win.

Captain Tim Paine wasn’t disconcerted  by the tactic.

“It was great theatre, wasn’t it,” he enthused after wrapping up the first Test in Sunday night..

We were just having a laugh before when we were bowling at their tail, we think it’s going to be a bit of bodyline for the a lot of the series.

“There’s been a lot of talk about it, but regardless of the pace of the two teams they are very, very skilled at executing that ball and they set great fields for it.

“It’s a completely different challenge from what you get from other teams.”

Paine stressed the Perth Test was played in good spirits, unlike the 1932-33 Ashes series where England captain Douglas Jardine introduced the infamous Bodyline tactic.

The Aussies also took to bowling short late in the match, but were nowhere near as sustained with it as the Black Caps and had more orthodox fields set

The challenging aspect is that the average of 130km/h New Zealand’s quicks bowl at make it tempting to play at, rather than duck out of the way of something faster.

“We know we need to get a little bit better at it, but having said that we thought we played really well,” Paine said.

“Some guys are going to take it on, and continue to take it on, other guys are going to wear it.

“Wadey’s pretty happy to wear them, Marnus is going to play it I’d imagine.

“I know a lot of our boys have spoken about where their fields are, and if they get this certain field they’re happy to play it.

“If the field’s this way, they’re gonna duck them.”

It is questionable if the tactic will be as effective in Melbourne and Sydney, where the pitches are expected to be slower and the bounce more consistent.

“It was a tactic on a pitch like this when it did age and there were cracks and the bounce became a little bit more variable then it proved to be effective,” New Zealand captain Kane Williamson said.

“It’s not for everywhere. It’s also something that the likes of Neil Wagner have been very successful doing for us in his role for a long period of time.”

While the two teams enjoy an unexpected day off, Australian thoughts are now turning to who will replace Australian paceman Josh Hazlewood who suffered a hamstring strain on day three.

Veteran Victorian Peter Siddle has put his hand up for a spot in the Boxing Day Test at the MCG, where he has previously enjoyed success.

Peter Siddle is a proven performer. Photo: AAP

Siddle has taken 12 wickets at 15.16 in three Shield matches at the MCG this summer, form which hasn’t gone unnoticed by Australia coach Justin Langer.

“We’ve started to think about (a squad replacement for Hazlewood), the obvious one would be Peter Siddle actually,” Australian coach Justin Langer said.

“He did a really good job in the Ashes, he’s bowling very well for Victoria and it’s at the MCG where he’s played a lot of cricket.”

Siddle admits he is bowling as well as ever and says he loves playing at the MCG.

“I don’t know why, but it’s always a venue I have bowled well at,” the 35-year-old told RSN. “Who doesn’t love playing at the ‘G’?”

While he says it would be great to earn a recall to the international fold, Siddle’s focus is on producing good performances and taking wickets.

“I think the good thing with me over the last few years is I’ve gone away from worrying about selection; I just try to play good cricket.

“I’m nearing the back end of my career. It’s just about trying to put in good performances for whoever I play for. If that gets me selected, then I’m happy. If it doesn’t, then as long as I’m playing good cricket, I’m happy also.

“We’ll see what happens. If I get a phone call over the next couple of days, it would be good – it would be great.”

Legendary spinner Shane Warne is not so sure, saying picking Siddle would be a step backwards and tipping James Pattinson to get the job.

Warne also has thoughts on how the Australians should proceed on the spin bowler selection front, saying uncapped Mitchell Swepson should be given a chance as a second option at some stage against the Black Caps.

Warne declared Swepson the nation’s next best spin-bowling option behind established star Nathan Lyon and said the pair could play together in the third Test in Sydney.

Mitch Swepson bowling for Queensland in a Shield match against Tasmania. Photo: AAP

Warne’s call comes amid growing concern for the lack of depth of Australia’s spin stocks, with 14 tweakers used at Test level since Warne’s retirement in 2007.

“Swepson, to me, has elevated himself already this year,” Warne said.

“If something happened to Nathan Lyon, I think Mitchell Swepson would probably come into the side.

“No disrespect to (Ashton) Agar and all those guys. Those guys could come in and they’d do a very good job. But I’d like to see us pick a wrist spinner; an attacking option, not a safe option with a finger spinner.”

Swepson, who has one T20 international appearance under his belt, has taken 12 wickets at 26.58 in four Sheffield Shield matches for Queensland this season.

-with AAP