Vol. 5 Num 591 Thu. January 26, 2006  

Aus-SL return tie today

Australia has dropped bowlers Brett Dorey and James Hopes for their return tri-series clash with Sri Lanka here Thursday after the pair were clobbered around the ground in their last encounter.

Instead they will bring in spinner Brad Hogg and install pace bowler Stuart Clark as super-sub for the crucial fixture.

Exactly halfway into the competition and after playing four matches apiece, Australia, on 10 points, are one clear of Sri Lanka with South Africa one point further adrift. Each side has beaten the other two.

In Sydney last Sunday, Sri Lanka humbled the world champions by 51 runs.

In that match, veteran opener Sanath Jayasuriya, who had arrived in Australia just two days earlier after recovering from a shoulder injury, carved up the Australian attack in tandem with Kumar Sangakkara.

Hopes and Dorey, who was playing in just his second one-day international, paid the heaviest price. Hopes was carted for 65 runs off six overs while Australian captain Ricky Ponting subsituted Dorey after just four overs. He had been belted for 35 runs.

The Australians did not use veteran pace bowler Glenn McGrath, who was being rested under the selectors' policy of giving senior players a break.

On Thursday it will be Ponting's turn to take a rest and he will be replaced as skipper by wicket-keeper-opener Adam Gilchrist, who comes back after a week off.

The policy has drawn criticism from some former players, including former captain Steve Waugh, but Gilchrist defended it staunchly in Adelaide on Wednesday.

He denied the selectors were rotating players without regard to on-field results during the series.

"We're not rotating players. We've rested myself and we've rested Ricky Ponting, purely to keep fresh for the games coming up," Gilchrist said.

"We'd love to make the finals. We want to make the final in everything we play in, but let's not get caught up in reporting it incorrectly that it's a rotation policy.

"It's very tight on the table now to get into the finals, but we've made it clear we need to keep an eye on the big picture and keeping guys fresh and trying to make sure we're playing at as high a level as possible and not peaking and burning out."

Waugh was reported in the Sydney Daily Telegraph newspaper as saying that the selectors were resting the wrong players.

He argued that it was "lame" to suggest McGrath was told to rest after playing about 27 days of cricket since the Ashes 135 days ago.

Waugh also told the paper that McGrath was a bowler who needed a heavy workload and said Ponting, as captain, should not be rested when Australia was still chasing a finals berth in the series.

"To be having a rest at a crucial juncture in the one-day series is tempting fate and opening the door to both Sri Lanka and South Africa, who will see this move as a lack of respect and be motivated by it," Waugh was quoted as saying.

Gilchrist was cautious when asked about a response to Waugh's remarks.

"I thought we had some sort of rotation policy when Steve was captain, if my memory serves me correctly, so maybe with a few years on and experience he thinks it's not the right thing to do," Gilchrist said.

"He's an extremely well-respected member of the cricket community and I'm not going to doubt too many things Steve says, but I'd have to speak to him directly before I could make any big statement."

Sri Lanka, who seemed set for victory against South Africa in Adelaide on Tuesday before stumbling at the last hurdle, were not expected to make any dramatic changes to the team.

Adam Gilchrist (c), Simon Katich, Brad Hodge, Damien Martyn, Andrew Symonds, Michael Clarke, Mike Hussey, Brad Hogg, Brett Lee, Nathan Bracken, Glenn McGrath, Stuart Clark (super-sub)

SRI LANKA (from): Marvan Atapattu (c), Sanath Jayasuriya, Jehan Mubarak, Kumara Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Tilakaratne Dilshan, Russel Arnold, Muttiah Muralitharan, Chaminda Vass, Ruchira Perera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Malinga Bandara, Dilhara Fernando, Upul Tharanga.