Ponting doubt gives Hodge a chance
Ricky Ponting is set to miss Australia's game against England at Sydney after straining a hip muscle at training on Thursday. Ponting remained keen to lead the side but the selectors conceded he would "more than likely not" play, which would give Brad Hodge another chance to press his claims for a World Cup place.
Merv Hughes, one of the Australia selectors, said he was unsure exactly how Ponting injured himself. "He ran around like an 18-year-old in the fielding drills and looked sensational and then went over to the nets and I'm not quite sure how [he did it], maybe reaching for a ball," Hughes told The Age.
Hughes said although there was a chance Ponting could play, the risk of aggravating the injury meant it would be safer to rest him. "[The physio] thinks he's a 40% chance but the news that we got was that if he plays, there's a fair chance he could do more damage to the injury and we certainly don't want to do that," Hughes said. "So we're probably going to be a little bit cautious with our view to it and Hodgey may have the opportunity. I'd say if Hodgey doesn't play, Ricky Ponting's made a miraculous recovery overnight."
Hodge, who replaced Ponting for the clash with England at the Gabba a fortnight ago and failed to score, has been in devastating domestic form. He made an unbeaten 115 in a one-day game for Victoria on Wednesday, on the back of 124 and 84 in Victoria's come-from-behind Pura Cup win over South Australia earlier in the week.
Hughes said Hodge's failure in his most recent ODI would have no bearing on whether he was part of Australia's World Cup plans. "You don't hang a bloke on one innings and his fielding up there was exceptional," Hughes said. "His two catches were fantastic and his form in the last couple of weeks, well, the last five years, has been fantastic."
Hodge said he knew he would be under pressure but would try to enjoy the opportunity that had come his way. "It's another chance, I suppose, got to take it and have some fun," Hodge said. "Hopefully, I can get a few this time."