For the first time in quite a while in an Ashes Test build-up, Australia are wrestling with more difficult selection quandaries than England, who can only wait upon the results of Andrew Flintoff’s various painkilling injections (if Flintoff isn’t fit, Stuart Broad’s batting definitely puts him ahead of Harmison, though he is an almost certain pick anyway). The Australians, by contrast, have serious question marks over the two great success stories of their series win in South Africa, the prodigy Phillip Hughes and the man of that series, Mitchell Johnson.
Johnson’s radar went completely awol on the first morning at Lord’s, putting Australia on the back foot for much of the rest of the game, whilst Hughes has had some problems on that back foot against deliveries into the body from top fast bowlers such as Andrew Flintoff, Steve Harmison and, err, David Wigley of Northamptonshire. Johnson’s travails are the more worrying, especially since his yips continued at Northampton, where he went for nearly 6 an over and took just one (tail-end) wicket. Hughes did score second innings runs and has, as far as I’m concerned, had only one bad match at Test level – having scored Test runs against the likes of Makhaya Ntini, Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn, he can't be that vulnerable against the short ball.
If the Australian selectors choose to back Johnson, though, it would be quite a risk to do so as part of a 4-man attack, which makes Shane Watson that bit more likely to play in the top order (probably in Hughes’ place). If Stuart Clark (23 overs, 4-74 at Northampton) replaces Johnson, the team will probably remain otherwise unchanged. I’d definitely make that change, mindful of Clark’s vice-like hold over Alistair Cook and Andrew Strauss in 2006-7, but Tim Nielsen has remained bullish in backing Johnson. Surely they won’t actually keep the same team, though? Let me know your thoughts!