Fri, Dec 31, 2010 - Page 20 News List

Clarke set to replace Ponting as Aussie captain for Sydney

AFP, SYDNEY

Michael Clarke will captain Australia for the first time and Usman Khawaja will make an historic debut in next week’s final Ashes Test in the absence of injured skipper Ricky Ponting.

Clarke was promoted yesterday from vice-captain to lead the team after Ponting was ruled out with a fractured little finger.

Clarke will also captain Australia in the limited overs and Twenty20 matches against England following the Test series, with Cameron White his deputy.

Pakistan-born Khawaja will become the first Muslim to play Test cricket for Australia as Ponting’s batting replacement as the home side seeks to level the series.

Wicketkeeper Brad Haddin was named vice-captain under Clarke for the Sydney Test, which gets under way on Monday.

X-rays revealed that during the fourth Test in Melbourne, won by England on Wednesday to retain the Ashes, Ponting had sustained further damage to a fractured little finger suffered earlier in the series.

Cricket Australia (CA) chief executive James Sutherland said the selectors had recommended Clarke assume the captaincy of the Australian team for the final Test and the one-day series against England.

“This recommendation was unanimously endorsed by [CA] directors,” Sutherland said, despite fans’ widespread opposition to Clarke in newspaper polls.

Chairman of selectors Andrew Hilditch indicated that Ponting would lead the team at the ICC World Cup on the sub-continent in February.

“With Ricky being unavailable for this match we are sure that both Michael and Brad will lead this Australian side with great professionalism and the full support of the team as we strive for a victory in Sydney,” Hilditch said. “We look forward to Ricky completing his recovery and leading this team to a fourth successive ICC Cricket World Cup on the sub-continent at the completion of the Australian summer.”

Khawaja, 24, who has scored the most runs (598) in the domestic Sheffield Shield competition this season at 74.75, will be considered for the demanding number three spot, the position occupied by Ponting.

“Usman will make his debut for Australia in this match, something we are excited about given his tremendous form at domestic level over the past two seasons,” Hilditch said. Paceman Doug Bollinger, dropped after the second Test in Adelaide, is back in Australia’s 12-man squad after Ryan Harris suffered a stress ankle fracture in the Melbourne Test.

The 12th man will be named on the morning of the match after the pitch is assessed, selectors said.

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