Australia v Sri Lanka, CB Series, 1st final, Brisbane

Whose place will Clarke take?

It can be seen as a sign of strength that none of the Australians who played the last league game merits a drop, but you would love for things to be clearer a day before the final

Sidharth Monga in Brisbane

March 3, 2012

Comments: 37 | Text size: A | A

Daniel Christian is mobbed after claiming a hat-trick, Australia v Sri Lanka, CB series, Melbourne, March 2, 2012
David Warner, Michael Hussey, Daniel Christian, Ben Hilfenhaus ... no one clearly warrants being dropped for the finals © Getty Images
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Australia's defeat to Sri Lanka in Melbourne has left them not only facing a side that has now beaten them in three successive games, but also given them a selection headache: whose place does the returning captain Michael Clarke take? It can be seen as a sign of strength that none of the XI who played that game merits a drop, but you would love for things to be clearer a day before the final. Australia landed in Brisbane during an afternoon shower, and the tight schedule - there's only a day's gap between the finals - means there is no training day to perhaps assess in the nets how the candidates for the drop are going.

It has been an interesting series for Australia. The sheer duration of it demanded a fair bit of rotation of players, but injuries to Clarke and Brett Lee have brought in a bigger pool of players than they would have perhaps wanted. They have also sacked Ricky Ponting, who captained Australia to a win in his last match, midway during the series. Ryan Harris is out, Ben Hilfenhaus is back as an ODI bowler. Shane Watson is back too, and is bowling as well.

In the middle of all that, Clarke went out with a sore back, and has come back to find out that while he should be playing the final two or three games of the summer, the tough decision is his too, along with the other selectors'. Going purely by statistics, David Warner should be the man to sit out, with Watson moving up the order to open with Wade. Selection decisions, however, are not made on statistics alone. Warner showed enough glimpses of how he can play above the game when he scored an imperious 68 out of 107 while he was at the crease on a tacky SCG surface, against India. He can win matches single-handedly, and that's what makes it difficult to leave him out of a big match.

"He is that kind of player, isn't he?" Daniel Christian said on the eve of the final, agreeing with the sentiment. "He is a match-winner, and I am sure he will get it together in the final series. He has had a pretty good summer. Good 70 [68] in the last game at the SCG. He is not far away from a big score."

Going by playing style, Clarke is a like-for-like replacement for Forrest, but Forrest is Australia's only centurion of the tournament. His debut, when he scored 66 against India, had been impressive. He is an organised player, equally at ease against pace and spin. His assured debut was the reason Australia could go ahead and drop Ponting, and it will be fair to say they haven't missed Ponting sorely since.

The Hussey brothers remain important to the side, Michael through experience and David through form, which is why Forrest would have loved to convert more than one of his starts into a big one. "I think we have been a little bit inconsistent so far in this series," Christian said. "Batting probably hasn't quite clicked the way we'd like it to. But we know all our batters are in good nick, it's just a case of us all getting it together on the day."

Precisely because none of the batsmen have been entirely reliable, Watson's batting should keep him in even though he has played only two games on return - with a half-century in Melbourne - so far. Like Warner, Watson too can win a match on his own. It is difficult to keep these players out. That should have put the pressure on Christian. And he responded with a hat-trick and a five-for in his last outing. That ought to be enough to keep him in, but Christian is not sure yet.

However, Christian did say that he and Watson in the same XI aren't one allrounder too many. "I don't see why we both can't play in the same team," Christian said. "The more the bowling options the better, I think. Obviously I need to be scoring runs as well. I am not there as a bowler, I am there as an allrounder. Last night [in Melbourne, with the bat] I missed out. Hopefully I'll get something in the next couple of games."

If Christian is to miss out because Watson brings something extra to a batting line-up that hasn't been a million dollars, he will live. "Watto is a fantastic player," Christian said. "He has shown it over a number of years. If I lose my spot to him, that's the way it goes. As I said, there is definitely room for both of us to play in the same side. Hopefully the selectors [think] the same way."

Apart from these candidates, a left-field choice could be Clint McKay, as Watson does bring with him the ability to bowl yorkers at the death. But Australia, traditionally, don't like going into a game weak on the bowling front. If McKay were to be dropped, that would leave Watson, Christian and David Hussey 20 overs to bowl between them.

Whatever way he and the selectors go, Clarke's is not an entirely enviable position to be in. Once he decides whom he replaces, he will have to find a corresponding man for Lee: Hilfenhaus has been impressive and had taken a five-for on return, while James Pattinson took four wickets, also on return, in the last game.

Edited by Nikita Bastian

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Dashgar on (March 4, 2012, 1:52 GMT)

Either Warner or Forrest. Christian has given us a lot down the order and with the ball, he should stay. Unless you up Watson and David's bowling committments and drop McKay. But they won't do that.

Posted by   on (March 4, 2012, 1:14 GMT)

I'll just echo what most people above have said. Drop Warner for Clarke

Posted by Patchmaster on (March 4, 2012, 0:05 GMT)

Warner is averaging about 23. He would't get picked for ENG with that.

Posted by Gilly67 on (March 3, 2012, 21:47 GMT)

'none of the batsmen have been entirely reliable'. Hmm. You would be hard pressed to find any batsmen have any series as consistent or reliable as the series David Hussey has had so far. Alas, you are probably like the Australian Test selectors and somehow again, David Hussey appears to be an invisible man. That said, drop Warner and let Watson go back to opening. Warner hasn't looked like making a run against Sri Lanka.

Posted by   on (March 3, 2012, 21:43 GMT)

Clarke in for Clint McKay. Or Hilfenhaus. Both have only 2 wickets against Sri Lanka this series. Australia should easily be able to squeeze 20 overs out of Christian, Watson, and D Hussey in particular. The depth of batting is the biggest concern at the moment. Four bowlers and 2 all rounders is too many.

Posted by zeus_kris on (March 3, 2012, 21:29 GMT)

Drpop Warner. People keep saying that he is a match winner but he has not done anything of worth this series. His 60+ knock against india was full of chances, and it was just around run-a-ball - not something match-winning that you would expect from Warner. Also, he selfishly got Mike Hussey run out in that innings as wanted to retain his spot the next game. Watson adds stability to the top order, and Forrest adds stability to middle order. Too often this series, Australia has been 2 down for nothing and it had put too much pressure on the middle and late orders. Lee is not a shoe-in. Similar to Warner he has not done anything this series. Patto, Hilfy and McKay are capable bunch. Lee is just erratic and leaks runs.

Posted by Nampally on (March 3, 2012, 19:41 GMT)

Clarkecan takeeither Warner or Forests' spot. Warner is a hit & miss batsman who will not survive against good bowling. So it is huge gamble to open with Warner. It is most likely Watson will open with Wade and Clarke movesin at #3. Aussie batting is very unreliable without Clarke in the side. Both Husseys + Watson + Clarke is the Aussie batting. The rest are unreliable and very much a chance. Unfortunately the SL is hurting with some of its players on injured list. Perrera Will be missed.Even Mathews is ify along with Maharoof. Both hope thy will not breakdown during the game itself. This promises to be good series.Unlike India , SL will not give an inch without a fight.So the Aussies if they don't play at their peak will find it tough to win. SL has already won 3 out of their 4 matches against the Aussies. The only match Aussies won was by a narrow margin of 5 runs. If India had played Vs.the Aussies as well as they did against the SL, this would have been a India vs. SL final.

Posted by Marcio on (March 3, 2012, 18:50 GMT)

Can't really see SL winning a game here, despite last 3 matches. AUS will be focused, and have their best team on the park. At any rate, AUS will win in Brisbane, so SL has to win the other games to take it. It's only smattering of time before Warner, Watson and co fire, Nd I expect this will be the time.

Posted by S.N.Singh on (March 3, 2012, 17:57 GMT)

WARNER SHOULD BE REPLACED BY CLARKE. CLARKE CAN REPLACE ANYONE WITH HIS CURRENT FORM AND WILL BE AN INSPIRATION TO THE TEAM. HE CAN PLAY IN ANY POSITION AND CAN BOWL A FEW OVERS. S.N.SINGH

Posted by rumansiddiqui on (March 3, 2012, 17:54 GMT)

Drop Warner and put Clarke to open the innings as Australia has very depth in their batting with Hussey brothers are in great form.

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