Aussies find Beer at bottom of the barrel
Friday was the oddest day of the Ashes so far. England produced their worst cricket on tour, dropping five catches in the tour game against Victoria, and yet there was much more ammunition to question Australia, whose selection policy is beginning to show all the military precision of a campaign managed by Captain Mainwaring.
It should have been a great chance to turn the guns on someone like Chris Tremlett - the man expected to replace Stuart Broad at the Waca went wicketless at the MCG. Instead, Australia's chairman of selectors Andrew Hilditch got both barrels.
All he had done for his troubles was to profess his fondness of beer... Michael Beer, to be precise. But the vacuum into which all national spin-bowling talent has escaped since Shane Warne's retirement is not really a laughing matter at all.
"Beer's inclusion is the biggest stunner since Peter "Who" Taylor was given a baggy green cap against England in 1986-87," noted the Sydney Morning Herald as yet another parallel was drawn with the last Ashes series defeat on home soil.
Small beer or the full pint? Michael Beer is in line for a shock Test debut in Perth (Getty)
Allan Border professed to being "in a state of shock", before reassuring himself that Beer would be 12th man when England and Australia resume hostilities in Perth next Thursday.
The trouble is, Hilditch had already dropped some major hints suggesting Beer would soon be handed his Test debut. "We expect he will bowl very well against the English on his home ground," he said.
Warne swaggered off the international stage with 708 Test wickets behind him when Australia put the seal on their 5-0 whitewash over England in January 2007.
Nobody could have foreseen that since that glorious day for the Baggy Greens, 10 spinners - yes TEN - would be picked within four years. Once they mocked England's obsession for finding the new Botham; but finding the new Warne takes cricketing neophilia to a new level altogether.
Beer's shock was palpable: "I don't think it really sank in until I rang my parents and actually blurted it out myself and thought hang on, what's going on here?"
Little wonder. Having spent the formative years of his cricketing education in Melbourne's bohemian seaside resort of St Kilda - a place that's a bit like Scarborough, only warmer and a thousand times more trendy - he finally got his big break with Western Australia.
The 26-year-old has played five first-class games though, one of them being England's first tour game back in early November, where he recorded 3-108 and 2-99.
And the coach who brought him to WA, South African Mickey Arthur, speaks in glowing terms of this slow left-armer who follows the likes of Jason Krejza, Bryce McGain, Nathan Hauritz and now Xavier Doherty into the spin-bowling seat, or should that be ejector seat?
"I think he'll probably get an extended run now," said Arthur. He's probably right, based on the fact there are not really any spinners left in Australia who have not been tried.
Australia's policy for Perth is high-risk at every level. Out of 12 names, there are only five specialist batsmen, one of whom is the hopelessly out-of-form New South Wales opener Phillip Hughes, who was dropped after two Tests in the 2009 Ashes.
Assuming Brad Haddin remains at seven, leg-spinner Steve Smith will bat in the number six spot vacated by Marcus North. If you haven't seen Smith before, he's a confident lad of just 21, with two Tests and nine one-day internationals behind him.
It would of course be dangerous to write him off - he hit 77 in the Headingley Test against Pakistan and has a good strike rate with the ball in Twenty20 internationals - but he slightly falls into the camp of players who are OK at both batting and bowling without being brilliant at either.
North was discarded alongside Doherty and Doug Bollinger. The latter is a trifle unlucky to lose his spot, as he has been Australia's most consistent bowler since his debut in January 2009. Then again, which England batsman is worried about facing Bollinger?
Back comes Ben Hilfenhaus, a dependable sort who often takes two or three wickets but never five or six. And it's hello again to Mitchell Johnson, the least dependable fast bowler - but possibly the only potential match-winner.
It's a schizophrenic selection. We cannot say it is a bad one, because Australia could win at Perth, and then it would be one of the great selections. And given that Shane Watson's swing-bowling can be added to whichever five bowlers make the final cut, there is some nice balance about it.
Big, brave calls have been made because they have to be made. The selectors have decided North, Hauritz and Bollinger are not good enough to feature in a side trying to wrest back the Ashes from a very good England team. Now they will discover whether the same applies to Smith, Beer and Hughes.