Richard Hobson's piece with Andrew Strauss in the Times today yielded a nugget: 'He thinks he knows nine of the eleven he would like for the first [Ashes] Test at Cardiff, declining to identify the two vacant places'.
Who are the Strauss Two? Acknowledging the wishes of the captain by keeping this item blind, OAS will be one, music to the ears of IRB, RSB and of course MPV.
But IRB is one of three dumped by Strauss so far, with MSP and SJH. So the news that either the spinner's spot or the third seamer is settled [do the math, as the kids say] is bad news for one or the other. Which could it be?
Strauss would offer only coded clues: 'We must acknowledge that an Ashes series is different to others. I am thinking of the extra attention, expectation, pressure, and the brand of cricket Australia play. We cannot afford for any of our players to be surprised by the challenge'.
Given that SJH is constantly surprised by everything that ever happens to him ['I need to sit down and have a chat with Straussy, find out where I stand' etc] and MSP subsides into Bambi-eyed shock every time a batsman gets after him, it's still hard to tell.
Maybe it's even a further incentive to that Pro Arch century-maker, who only ever looks surprised when he's bowled.
Answers on a postcard.
NB: One of Strauss's finest attributes is his refusal [so far] to refer to himself in interviews as 'Andrew Strauss'. So let's hope Andrew Strauss gets what Andrew Strauss wants.