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Battle for Ashes spots about to hot up

08/11/2006 06:23:53 AM Comments (0)

Australia and England have turned their attention to the coming Ashes cricket series with the battle for spots in the first Test about to hot up.

Both sides are now in the country, after Ricky Ponting's men returned from India on Tuesday, with Ashes fever set to escalate on Wednesday when Cricket Australia officially launches the series at the Museum of Sydney.

The fight for places in both sides will also step up a gear over the next fortnight.

Australia's significant internal battle will be fought between five pacemen who are vying for possibly one spot behind Glenn McGrath and Brett Lee come the first Test in Brisbane, which starts November 23.

NSW pair Stuart Clark and Nathan Bracken, Queenslanders Mitchell Johnson and Shane Watson and South Australia's Shaun Tait will all up the ante to get a crack at England.

Johnson, Watson and Bracken all impressed during the recent Champions Trophy win, while Tait and Clark overcame injury to star in the recent Pura Cup match in Adelaide.

McGrath, Lee, Clark and Bracken should all bowl for NSW against England in Sydney in a three-game match starting Sunday.

Tait will get two chances against England, in the Prime Minister's XI match in Canberra on Friday, and for South Australia in a three-day game starting November 17.

Johnson and Watson will press for Test selection in the Pura Cup match against Western Australia, in Perth starting Sunday.

England's has internal battles on several fronts.

The tourists are likely to play five bowlers in Brisbane, which means Sajid Mahmood and James Anderson will vie to bowl with fellow quicks Steve Harmison, Andrew Flintoff and Matthew Hoggard.

Ashley Giles and Monty Panesar are competing for the one spot as left-arm spinner, while either one of Geraint Jones and Chris Read could keep wickets.

England must also decide which of middle order batsmen Alastair Cook, Ian Bell and Paul Collingwood to leave out of the side, as the trio has all performed well of late.

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