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Sydney 'no testimonial for Hayden': Ponting

Published: Wednesday, December 31, 2008, 11:18 [IST]
 
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Sydney Test is no Hayden Testimonial: Ponting

Melbourne: This week"s third Test between Australia and South Africa will not be a testimonial for out-of-form opener Matthew Hayden, said team skipper Ricky Ponting and Australia"s chief selector Andrew Hilditch.

The 37-year-old Hayden has scored 313 runs at 22.35 in eight matches, leading to comments that he is now a mere passenger with the squad and should make way for better performing openers.

Ponting and Hilditch both denied the Sydney match would be a testimonial for the 102-Test veteran before his retirement.

Fox Sports quoted Ponting as saying that he hoped Hayden made a big score and continued in form for the Test tour of South Africa in February.

Meanwhile, South African cricket captain Graeme Smith paid tribute to Australia''s decade of dominance, saying that South Africa's series victory marked their "greatest moment" in cricket.

"They've dominated world cricket for a decade or so," Smith said.

"The balance has probably evened out a little bit more now, and other teams are moving into other eras."

There is also a worry in the Australian camp on shoring up their bowling armoury.

With anchormen Brett Lee and Stuart Clark on the injured list and sidelined, and 17-Test veteran Mitchell Johnson leading the attack, Australia''s fast bowling stocks have been gutted.

The attack for Saturday''s Sydney Test will have a collective total of just 23 Tests between them. Johnson has played 17 Tests, Peter Siddle (three), and Nathan Hauritz (three) are likely to be joined by Ben Hilfenhaus or Doug Bollinger, who will make their Test debuts.

A few months ago Johnson was Australia''s bowling baby. Now he is five times as experienced as any other member of the attack.

Only two years ago at the same ground, when Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne said goodbye to Test cricket, Australia''s attack, also featuring Lee and Clark, had a collective experience of 358 Tests.

The old days of being able to send an SOS to Michael Kasprowicz - he was dropped and recalled 10 times - or his Queensland mate Andrew Bichel and being able to count on a solid performance in tough times, are gone.

Apart from Shaun Tait or Nathan Bracken, both of whom appear to have faded from contention, Australia do not have a single player of Test match experience to call on.

Each fresh selection is a gamble and the support structure around them from the rest of the attack is wafer thin.

Old warriors Jason Gillespie and Kasprowicz, however, feel Australia do have the depth to cope: "I am a huge wrap for Doug Bollinger," Gillespie said.

"I am extremely surprised that he hasn't notched a few Test matches by now. I don''t know if selectors are feeling that two left-arm fast bowlers is not the way to go. What is the difference, two left-armers or two right-armers?

"There was a time when Justin Langer didn''t get selected for a tour because they weren''t sure if two left-arm openers was the way forward. I don''t think it is an excuse. Ben Hilfenhaus would also be equally as good an option. They are both fantastic bowlers."

Rebuilding Australia''s attack involves more than simply stocking an attack with bowlers with useful Sheffield Shield averages. They must learn to help each other.

ANI

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