Australia, desperately needing a win to hold on to the Ashes, are considering playing five specialist bowlers in the fifth Test at The Oval, Australian media said yesterday.
Australia have relied heavily on just four bowlers through much of their golden spell over the past decade and so playing an extra bowler would underline their concern after being outshot in three of the last four Tests in the series against England.
Newspapers here believe selectors will choose three pace bowlers and leg-spinners Shane Warne and Stuart MacGill, even though MacGill has had limited bowling time on tour.
The last time Australia went into a Test with a five-man bowling attack was during the 2003 tour of the Caribbean when they were confronted by a series of flat, lifeless pitches.
"The deciding factor in its plans will be the fitness of strike bowler Glenn McGrath whose debilitating right elbow injury continues to improve but he has yet to prove he has fully recovered," the Australian's Andrew Ramsay said.
"It is the ongoing doubt over McGrath's availability which has caused the greatest angst for chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns, coach John Buchanan and captain Ricky Ponting in the lead-up to Australia's most important Test in four years," he said.
Ramsay said should McGrath be cleared to play in tomorrow's Test he could lead an attack with pacemen Brett Lee and Shaun Tait as well as the two leg-spinners.
There had been no final decision reached on whether all-rounder Shane Watson will be drafted into the squad, he said.
The Australian said the call of the toss would be important as The Oval pitch traditionally offers early pace and bounce for the seamers and then flattens out into one of England's best batting tracks before taking spin.
The Melbourne Herald Sun said Australian team officials have been in marathon talks over the past two days discussing the option of dropping a batsman, almost certainly Simon Katich, and playing five bowlers.
India vs New Zealand
Mohammad Kaif scored an unbeaten 93 yesterday and India was bowled out for 276 in the final of a triangular one-day series against New Zealand at the Harare Sports Club.
Sourav Ganguly and Virender Sehwag put on 75 for the first wicket until Ganguly fell for 31 to the bowling of seamer Jacob Oram. The scoring slowed after left-arm fingerspinner Daniel Vettori dismissed Sehwag (75) and Rahul Dravid for a second-ball duck. Only Yuvraj Singh with 20 made an impact as Oram finished with four wickets for 58.
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