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Great burden on Streak’s shoulders

Perth: The moment of truth for Heath Streak’s depleted Zimbabweans arrives Thursday when they take on Steve Waugh’s world champion Australians in the first clash of a two-Test series.

Streak, 29, an accomplished all-rounder from Bulawayo, and coach Geoff Marsh have worked wonders in the past two weeks in moulding an inexperienced 16-man squad into an efficient unit performing well above expectations in their three warm-up outings.

But there remain lingering doubts about whether the touring batsmen will have the technical skills to handle the furious pace of Brett Lee, Jason Gillespie and Andy Bichel when the major business begins at Perth’s WACA ground.

Zimbabwe will derive a crumb of comfort from the absence of Australian spearhead Glenn McGrath, sidelined with injury.

The other ‘positive’ sign for Zimbabwe could be the pitch where grass hasn’t really grown. “Pace bowlers are unlikely to gain much help from the grass, and there will be less bounce than usual,” said a groundsman. “I predict it will still be hard and flat, but the surface has not had the grass growth and boiling sun that produces extreme pace and bounce.”

That assessment almost certainly means that local paceman Brad Williams, originally expected to replace McGrath, will now be overlooked and have to wait a little longer for a Test debut.

Instead, leg-spinner Stuart MacGill – who learned his craft on the western side of the country – is likely to move into the side. Spinners have had minimum impact in Perth Tests over the decades, but MacGill has an outstanding record here in all forms of the game. (AFP)

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