There is little to play for at the Telstra Dome tomorrow save individual pride and records. The cynics were predicting a contrived dream finish for the series on Friday morning, but Australia had little regard for the ideal script, and their clinical demolition of a star-studded World team has robbed the final match of all significance and occasion. The only tangible gain for the World XI could be some meaningful practice for some of their leading batsmen before the Test that starts at the Sydney Cricket Ground next week.
The performances of some of the leading World batsmen has been the most disappointing factor in this one-sided series so far. Between them, Virender Sehwag, Jacques Kallis, Brian Lara and Rahul Dravid have managed only 81 runs in two innings, 22 less than what Adam Gilchrist scored in one. These four will form the backbone of the Test XI, where they will come up against a more formidable Australian bowling attack that will include Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne.
Lara and Kallis came to the series with very little competitive cricket in recent times and looked completely out of sync. Lara has lasted only 15 balls so far, being dismissed in identical fashion twice, driving Nathan Bracken to Andrew Symonds's lap at cover. Sehwag, whose continued failure in one-day cricket should be a major concern, got out in a manner that that should be a cue for the Australian bowlers in the Test. He has a tendency to be caught on the front foot against sharp short balls and Brett Lee got him fending one in front of his face.
Ironically, the World XI are set to lose their most successful batsman in the series so far after the one-day games because the selectors reckoned Mark Boucher was a better bet behind the stumps than Kumar Sangakkara on a potentially turning pitch at Sydney. That Sangakkara has far greater experience in keeping to Muttiah Muralitharan was apparently of little consequence before Boucher's expertise against a line-up of spinners where Nicky Boje is the most distinguished member. Coincidentally, Chris Gayle, the only other World team batsman to have scored a fifty so far, will also head home after Sunday's match.
The World team failed to announce their 12 the day before the match because they are still unsure about the fitness of Kevin Pietersen, who left the field clutching his hamstring in the last over of Australia's innings on Friday and later batted with a runner. His condition was not serious, said John Wright, the World team coach. A scan has shown a slight strain and a decision will be made on Sunday morning. It might be a folly to risk him in a meaningless match considering England are about to embark on a significant tour to Pakistan shortly.
Australia have their own injury worry with Simon Katich - who has been a successful replacement for Matthew Hayden, scoring 58 and 47 in the first two matches - receiving treatment for a groin injury. If Katich is found unfit, Australia might field James Hopes, the 26-year old allrounder, who has opened in one-day cricket for Queensland.
But Australia will be boosted by the return of Glenn McGrath who sat out the second match and he will be doing no favours to the World team batsmen before the Test.
World XI 1 Chris Gayle, 2 Virender Sehwag, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 4 Rahul Dravid, 5 Jacques Kallis, 6 Brian Lara, 7 Shahid Afridi, 8 Andrew Flintoff, 9 Shaun Pollock (capt), 10 Daniel Vettori, 11 Muttiah Muralitharan, 12 Makhaya Ntini.
Australia 1 Adam Gilchrist (wk), 2 James Hopes, 3 Ricky Ponting (capt), 4 Damien Martyn, 5 Michael Hussey, 6 Michael Clarke, 7 Shane Watson, 8 Andrew Symonds, 9 Cameron White, 10 Brett Lee, 11 Glenn McGrath, 12 Nathan Bracken.