x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Nielsen: Hauritz could turn tide against England left-handers

The Australian coach will study the Cardiff pitch before making choice on whether to play the much-maligned spinner.

The Australia coach Tim Nielsen insists the much-maligned spinner Nathan Hauritz is "getting better and better" but will make no decision on whether to play him in the first Ashes Test starting Wednesday until viewing the Cardiff wicket. Hauritz is the only specialist spinner in the 16-strong Australian party but has returned combined figures of two for 260 from two appearances against Sussex at Hove and England Lions at New Road, which ended in a draw on Saturday.

There has been speculation that the Australians will rely on part-time spinners Marcus North, Michael Clarke and Simon Katich, should the wicket take turn. But Nielsen hinted Hauritz could play a part given the number of left-handers in the England side. Nielsen said: "We won't know until we get to Cardiff what side to select and the conditions will be critical. "But Nathan has got better and better as we have gone on and there is no point in taking 12 wickets in two games now and not being right for the Test.

"Yes, that would be nice from the confidence point of view but he is comfortable with how his game is progressing. I feel he has improved as the two games have gone on. "He was below his best in the first innings at Hove and the wicket didn't offer a lot of spin or bounce at Worcester but at least he was able to get some rhythm. "He changed his pace a lot more and was able to cause a few more issues out of the rough for their left-handers.

"Remembering England's Test squad usually has three left handers to finish their order off and two at the top, an off-spinner will be pretty handy in that regard." Nielsen is also expecting the opener Phillip Hughes to work on his technique during the next few days after twice being dismissed by short pitched deliveries from the Lions fast bowler Steve Harmison. He said: "South Africa bowled like that to him through the series in the winter and he had great success. Steyn, Morkel and Ntini all went hard at him.

"You have to be pretty precise if you are going to bowl that length to him. "We have seen how hard Phil hits the ball through point if the ball is not quite right. It is physically taxing for the bowler to be smashing the ball into the wicket all of the time. "To do it for long periods, is hard work and, if you don't have a bit of luck, before you know it he could be on 40 and the pressure is off.

"They will have their plans to attack our guys. Harmison bowled very well and Phil got out twice. But he is averaging 60 in Tests and we will turn up on Wednesday and play the real stuff. "It was great experience for Phil because he probably hasn't faced that quality fast bowling, certainly not in the last month or two. "It has given him a chance to be aware of how England will attack him and he has two or three days to think about how he is going to cope with that and practice it."

Nielsen is happy with the progress Australia have made during the past few weeks. "I think the whole three weeks we have been here has been spot on. We've been lucky to have had no rain. It has not interrupted our preparation. "We've been able to up the tempo the whole way through ahead of Wednesday. There was no point in us being at our absolute best a week and a half ago." * PA