Australia v New Zealand, CB Series, Melbourne February 3, 2007

Ponting fit for New Zealand clash

Cricinfo staff



Ricky Ponting is back for Australia after their first defeat of the season © Getty Images
Ricky Ponting has been passed fit for Australia's CB Series match against New Zealand at the MCG on Sunday. He will replace Andrew Symonds, who needs surgery on his bicep injury, which means Brad Hodge is handed another chance to stake a claim for the World Cup squad.

Ponting missed Australia's 92-run defeat against England at Sydney with a hip problem, but he was never expected to be ruled out for more than one match. His replacement at the SCG, Hodge, failed for the second time in the series, bowled by Sajid Mahmood for 1, following his duck against England at Brisbane.

However, Symonds' injury has opened up another chance for Hodge as Australia again juggle their side ahead of the three-match finals series. Glenn McGrath and Nathan Bracken will sit out at Melbourne as Brett Lee and Mitchell Johnson return. Shaun Tait, who debuted at Sydney, has another opportunity in the side despite a wayward effort against England and a poor fielding display.

The Australia selectors have resisted the temptation to draft Shane Watson back into the squad despite his return to action for Queensland. Watson has been out of the Australia side since injuring a hamstring before the first Ashes Test in November after seemingly cementing a position during the Champions Trophy.

Watson has continued to build up his workload by taking the new ball for Redlands against Souths in Brisbane grade cricket, finishing with 2 for 18 off 15 overs. Errol Alcott, the former Australia physio, said he was confident about Watson's fitness. "I'd have no qualms about him getting through the World Cup," he told The Sunday Telegraph.

Australia Adam Gilchrist (wk), Matthew Hayden, Ricky Ponting (capt), Brad Hodge, Michael Clarke, Mike Hussey, Cameron White, Brett Lee, Mitchell Johnson, Stuart Clark, Shaun Tait