Six wickets in four Tests have raised question marks Peter Siddle's performance with the ball in the Ashes series in the summer was one of the few bright spots for the beaten Australians. The Victorian, who bears more than a passing resemblance to former Australia quick Craig McDermott, finished the series with 20 wickets, two less than the series leader Ben Hilfenhaus and the same number as Mitchell Johnson, who was named ICC Cricketer of the Year.
Yet the 25-year-old bowler now finds himself under the spotlight going into this morning's match in Hobart after taking just six wickets in his last four Test matches at almost 69 runs apiece. In contrast, Johnson, Doug Bollinger and Nathan Hauritz have taken more than 20 wickets each. The Australian captain Ricky Ponting, however, is not looking the last column of Siddle's figures and is concentrating on his contribution as part of the Australian bowling attack.
"I'm not that worried about the wicket column next to his name because what he's doing at the moment is forming part of a really good bowling attack," said Ponting, who is himself enduring one of his leanest summers at home with just 216 runs from nine innings. "That's one thing that I've stressed with the selectors the last couple of years: it's about making sure we pick an attack and not just trying to look at the next best bowler that's going around the scene.
"I think it's important that the bowlers in the line-up really complement each other well. "Sids has had to do the bullocking sort of work and charging from one end and pretty much keep the run-rate down and not worry about attacking too much. "What he's been able to do is still bowl consistently well and bowl good spells. What that does is make life a bit easier for the guy he's bowling in tandem with."
While Siddle has Ponting in his corner, the Pakistan captain, Mohammed Yousuf, is finding himself increasingly isolated. He came under fierce criticism following his ultra-defensive approach in the last Test at Sydney, which Australia won on a dramatic final day. Ian Chappell, the former Australia captain, joined a chorus of former Pakistan cricketers in criticising Yousuf. Chappell feels Yousuf, who was parachuted into the role after Younus Khan stepped down, is not "captaincy material".
Reacting to the criticism, Yousuf said he is open to advice and called on the former cricketers to help him overcome his shortcomings. He said: "I think that instead of criticising all the time, if former players come forward and point out to me that 'this is where you are doing wrong', I think it would help me in improving my captaincy. I have to still learn many things about captaincy. "I have no issues with any former player coming forward and giving me good advice that is good for me or Pakistan cricket."
Along with Yousuf's defensive approach, Australia also benefited from the four catches that wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal dropped. Mike Hussey was put down three times and went on to make a match-winning century. The Pakistan captain, however, refused to blame his deputy, who has been dropped for his shoddy performance after 42 Tests and five years behind the stumps. "We fielded badly in New Zealand and again in Australia, to make matters worse, Kamran dropped four catches," said Yousuf. "But he is a fine player and he has won many matches for Pakistan.
"So I think we should not put him under more pressure. He will come out of his bad patch and he just needs to regain his confidence." @Email:email@example.com