x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Australia opt for spinner

The off-spinner Jason Krejza has been selected in the Australia team ahead of the all-rounder Shane Watson for the first Test against South Africa.

PERTH // The off-spinner Jason Krejza has been selected in the Australia team ahead of the all-rounder Shane Watson for tomorrow's first Test against South Africa at the WACA. With the Victorian paceman Peter Siddle replacing the injured Stuart Clark in the starting XI, the final selection decision ahead of the first Test was between Krejza and Watson, and Australia have elected to go with spin after being found out badly in October against India, when, without a spinner, they slumped to defeat in Mohali.

It will mean Krejza will play his second Test having overcome an ankle injury suffered on return to Australia after his incredible 12-wicket debut in Nagpur. The captain Ricky Ponting announced his team on Tuesday and is confident Krejza can perform a number of roles, namely tying down an end, being an attacking option and helping in the constant battle with over rates. "We think that it's going to be a pretty good wicket to bat on as the game goes on and someone who can take pace off the ball and do a good job with his finger spin will come in handy," said Ponting.

"Ideally you want to go in with a spinner in every game of Test cricket you play, unless the conditions are so laden in the way of the seamers like Brisbane. "To have the variation that Krejza gives us and a guy coming off 12 wickets in his first Test, he is obviously going to have some confidence behind him." As for the pitch, with a day to go before the Test it is still quite green and Ponting is expecting it to be quite difficult to bat on in the first day or two before getting easier as the match goes on.

With his recent run of losing tosses Ponting will not be drawn on what he will do if successful this time around. "I think there will be a little bit in it for the first day and probably for the first couple of days really," he said. "Most games that have been played here for the last five or six years the first innings totals have been a lot lower than the second innings. That is the way the games have been, which makes what the wicket looks like tomorrow morning and me getting the judgment right pretty important.

"I haven't decided what I'd do yet [if he won the toss]. I'm not banking on it because I never win one anyway, so I usually just see what the other team choose to do and get on with it." While Ponting put his cards on the table, South Africa captain Graeme Smith refused to confirm whether the spinner Paul Harris will play. Harris has overcome a thumb injury and took 4-94 in a tour match against a Western Australia XI on Saturday, but Smith will wait until just before the start tomorrow before deciding between a spinner and left-arm paceman Tsotsobe Lonwabo.

"We've just had a first look at the wicket today and it's changed quite a bit from yesterday. We'll have Tsotsobe in the 12 and then we'll make a decision in the morning," Smith said. "But as I said the other day I'm very comfortable going in with the XI we've done the business with over a period of time. "It's more of cover really, just making sure we get here tomorrow and we've covered our bases.

"We really are pretty happy." All the injury concerns look to have cleared up for South Africa with Dale Steyn (hamstring), Morne Morkel (ankle) and Mark Boucher (ankle) all fit. Much of the focus in the build-up to the series opener has been on fast bowler Steyn, and Smith is confident he will perform well in Australia and is handling all the pressure as well as can be expected. * PA Sport