Australia have shaken up their underperforming bowling attack and sprung a surprise by picking untried spinner Michael Beer in a revamped 12-man squad for the third Ashes Test against England in Perth next week.
Beer, who has taken just 16 first-class wickets at an average nudging 40 since making his debut two months ago, replaces fellow left-arm spinner Xavier Doherty, dropped after being flayed by England’s batsmen in the second Test.
England lead the five-match series 1-0 after beating the hosts by an innings and 71 runs in Adelaide.
“Michael Beer, I suppose, has come from nowhere but he’s had a good start to the domestic season, someone we were very interested in before the season started with,” chairman of selectors Andrew Hilditch told reporters in Adelaide yesterday.
“We had some really good feedback from our talent management system and people in WA [Western Australia],” he said. “He’s got a few wickets against the Poms, he’s a talented left-arm orthodox spinner and hopefully someone who can play a big role in our future.”
Beer, nicknamed “Frosty” by teammates, was floated as a possible pick this week by retired legspinner Shane Warne, who said the unheralded 26-year-old’s local knowledge of Perth’s WACA ground might be an asset despite only five first-class appearances to his name.
Beer will join retained pacemen Peter Siddle and Ryan Harris in the attack, but Doug Bollinger was dropped after struggling for fitness in the Adelaide heat.
Mitchell Johnson and Ben Hilfenhaus, both of whom were dropped following the first Test in Brisbane, will vie for the last vacant bowling spot.
Johnson has spent the week in the nets with Australia’s specialist bowling coaches as they frantically try to help the 29-year-old find his form.
All-rounder Steven Smith also replaces out-of-form No. 6 Marcus North.
Phillip Hughes has replaced injured opening batsman Simon Katich and will face a big psychological test in Perth after he was bullied out of the side by England’s quicks during Australia’s losing Ashes series last year.
Hilditch conceded the hosts had disappointed in the series to date and said the raft of changes were aimed at jump-starting the stuttering team.
“We’re not playing well, we’ve been totally outplayed in all facets of the game so far, so we’ve got a lot to improve in all areas, but that’s the great challenge,” he said. “We thought we needed to make changes to try to change the momentum of the series, really.”
VICTORIA V ENGLAND
AFP, MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA
A sloppy England dropped five catches then forced a Victorian bowler to remove his headband during an eventful start to the three-day tour game at the Melbourne Cricket Ground yesterday.
Victoria declared their innings at 216-2 with opener Michael Hill unbeaten on 105 after being dropped four times.
David Hussey was 67 not out. He was dropped on 43.
England reached 50-1 at the close with skipper Andrew Strauss unbeaten on 17 and Ian Bell on six.
Alastair Cook (27) had demanded Victorian paceman Jayde Herrick remove a black sweatband around his bald head in the fourth over of the innings. It appeared the headband was distracting Cook.
Victoria had their revenge against Cook, who was caught behind off the bowling of spinner Jon Holland.
Victoria made slow progress in the first session to reach 58-1, losing debutant Ryan Carters (16).