| Steve Waugh feels MacGill has really come out of Warne’s shadow
Melbourne: Australia made the bold move of including leg-spinner Stuart MacGill in their team for Thursday’s first Test against Zimbabwe even though the pitch in Perth usually favours fast bowlers.
Captain Steve Waugh’s attack will be led by Brett Lee, Jason Gillespie, Andy Bichel and MacGill after uncapped paceman Brad Williams was named 12th man.
“Stuie is bowling exceptionally well in the nets, probably the best I have seen him, so he’s ready to go,” Waugh said in Perth on Wednesday.
“He looks a million dollars today so he’ll play a big part in this match, I think.”
The game’s top-ranked team will go into the two-match series against Zimbabwe without their two most successful bowlers, injured paceman Glenn McGrath and leg spinner Shane Warne, who is serving a 12-match doping ban.
Bichel and Damien Martyn replace McGrath and Martin Love.
MacGill has taken 42 wickets in seven Tests this year, prompting Waugh to tell critics his fellow New South Welshman was “not in Shane’s shadow”.
Warne is nine wickets away from becoming only the second bowler in Test cricket to take 500 wickets while MacGill, 32, has claimed 131 victims from 25 matches.
Martyn, 31, returns to the Test team for the first time since his unbeaten 88 from 84 balls in Australia’s World Cup final win over India in March.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe captain Heath Streak says a strong sense of belief in their own ability will help the African side take the fight to Australia.
Streak is the only world-class bowler in the touring team’s attack and the batting also looks thin but the skipper maintains the series could be closer than most people predict.
“I don’t think it (playing against Australia) requires miracles,” Streak, 29, said. “I have a lot of belief and I think if we play to our potential and abilities (and) on our day, if we take those half chances and really lift our game, we’ll be a tough and formidable opposition.
“We’re looking forward to a tough series. We’re not out here to roll over and be beaten.
Zimbabwe, who suffered two innings defeats against England in May-June and are ranked ninth by the ICC, have yet to finalise their team.
The tourists will give bowlers Ray Price, Douglas Hondo and Gary Brent until Thursday morning to prove their fitness.
Australia and Zimbabwe have met just once in a Test match when Australia won by 10 wickets in Harare in October 1999 despite Streak’s five for 93 in the first innings.
The Australians have not lost a home Test series since 1992-93 against West Indies.
“Obviously it’s something that doesn’t come around that very often, playing the world champions, so we’ll be very focused and keen to get out there and impress,” added Streak, who has taken 187 wickets in 53 matches.
Australia: Steve Waugh (capt.), Justin Langer, Matthew Hayden, Ricky Ponting, Damien Martyn, Darren Lehmann, Adam Gilchrist, Andy Bichel, Brett Lee, Jason Gillespie, Stuart MacGill.
Zimbabwe (from): Heath Streak (capt.), Tatenda Taibu, Dion Ebrahim, Trevor Gripper, Mark Vermeulen, Stuart Carlisle, Craig Wishart, Craig Evans, Andy Blignaut, Sean Ervine, Ray Price, Doug Hondo, Gary Brent.