Eyeing the top spot, Australia fret over selections
Australia will have to win both tests in Dubai and Abu Dhabi to go one point clear of South Africa.
SYDNEY - Australia are fretting over the composition of their final XI as Michael Clarke and his men embark on their journey to reclaim the world number one ranking in the two-test series against Pakistan starting on Wednesday.
Australia will have to win both tests in Dubai and Abu Dhabi to go one point clear of South Africa, who displaced them at the top in July, but there is still little clarity about the side who would walk out for the first match at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.
There is some uncertainty about the opening partnership, with David Warner recovering from a groin injury and Chris Rogers failing twice in the tour match.
Team management, wary of the pitch, is also undecided over the make-up of the bowling attack.
Adding to woes, captain Clarke is low on match practice as he returns from a hamstring injury that ruled him out of the one day internationals in the leadup.
"Anything is possible, it really is," national selection panel chairman Rod Marsh said on Cricket Australia's website.
"There's more than one spot to discuss I can promise you that, for a variety of reasons," Marsh said.
"We haven't even come close to saying this is what the XI will be."
Alex Doolan's century in the practice match against Pakistan A at Sharjah should secure his number three position but Rogers' scores of zero and three has the 37-year-old left-hander's place under scrutiny.
Phillip Hughes could be the beneficiary, having cracked a second-innings half-century against the spinning and reversing ball in the match Pakistan A won by 153 runs.
Beset with problems of their own, the biggest being the ban on leading spinner Saeed Ajmal for bowling with an illegal action, Pakistan coach Waqar Younis believes the tour match has exposed Australia's fragility.
"It definitely has given us an edge or a boost," the former fast bowler told reporters.
"They are a fine team, very professional side and do their things well but we have definitely seen some weaknesses and we are working on it and hopefully we will deliver the goods."
On the positive side for Australia, paceman Peter Siddle has added muscle as well as pace to return stronger after being dropped in South Africa earlier this year.
With Ryan Harris still recovering from knee surgery, Siddle is set to join England tormentor Mitchell Johnson at the front line of the pace attack.
More intriguing is the possibility that selectors might opt for two specialist spinners, a rarity for Australia, which would hand left-armer Steven O'Keefe a long-awaited test debut alongside Nathan Lyon.
In Shane Watson's absence, Australia are likely to blood the highly-fancied Mitchell Marsh, with coach Darren Lehmann determined to have an all-rounder to provide support for the bowlers in the heat of Dubai.