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Tim Nielsen, Australia's coach, believes the injured opener Matthew Hayden has a reasonable chance of making the third Test against India. Hayden is battling a hamstring injury sustained during the contentious second Test in Sydney and is in a race against time to prove his fitness, with the third Test set to start on Wednesday.
While Nielsen conceded that there were still major doubts over Hayden, he remained hopeful that his recuperative powers would enable him to be available. "Speaking to him this morning, he is feeling like he is just ahead of 50-50," Nielsen said.
"He really hasn't done much over the last couple of days. He's coming to the stage where there are four or five days to go, he needs to get up and start batting and catching over the next couple of days and if that doesn't hold him back too much, he'll be fine."
Hayden has been resilient throughout his career and has not missed a Test since Australia's 2000 tour of New Zealand, playing 86 matches in succession. The Australian physio, Alex Kountouris, was to meet with Hayden on Saturday evening and Hayden was likely to face a fitness test at training on Sunday.
Nielsen said a decision on whether a replacement would be needed would be made by Monday. "Until he runs around and plays some cricket for us and trains, it is hard to make a decision," Nielsen said. "Over the next 24 to 48 hours, he'll get a chance to have a training run and see how he pulls up - that will give us the real indication where he is at."
Nielsen wouldn't be drawn on whether the uncapped Western Australian opener Chris Rogers, who made 60 and 17 against India in the tour match that finished on Saturday, or the experienced middle-order batsman Simon Katich was the most likely replacement. However, he did reveal the Australians were strongly considering breaking with recent tradition by using a four-pronged attack, with Shaun Tait in line to replace Brad Hogg, who also has to negotiate a code of conduct hearing on Monday before being available for the Test.
The WACA pitch is expected to offer plenty of pace and bounce and Nielsen said Tait was right in contention to play his third Test, as the Australians chase an unprecedented 17th straight Test win. "He's very much at the forefront," he said of Tait. "We haven't seen the wicket yet, we'll get a good chance to look at the conditions tomorrow and make sure we pick the best side we can for the game coming up and the conditions the WACA presents for us.
"My gut feeling is it is 50-50, it will really depend on the conditions. If we turn up and it looks green and fast and bouncy, Taity will probably have his nose in front. If it looks like a good batting wicket that may flatten out a bit over the five days - as we saw a couple of years ago against South Africa - we'll need to make sure we have got a spinner in the line-up."