Wed, Mar 25, 2015 - Page 19 News List

Aussies face Doherty dilemma ahead of semi-final

Reuters, SYDNEY

Australia’s Xavier Doherty, left, fails to run out Sri Lanka’s Mahela Jayawardene during their Cricket World Cup match in Sydney, Australia, on March 8.

Photo: Reuters

With two confident teams going head-to-head in a blockbuster World Cup semi-final tomorrow, it could be the tiniest misjudgement, the smallest detail that decides whether Australia or India emerge triumphant.

Disregarding perhaps only the toss, Australia’s biggest decision this week is likely to be whether to include spinner Xavier Doherty in their side to face the world champions.

Much, of course, will depend on the wicket, which yesterday afternoon was covered by a huge white blanket as rain tumbled down on the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG).

If, as coach Darren Lehmann expects, it is a similar track to that on which Australia beat Sri Lanka in the pool stage, Doherty’s contribution might be restricted to handing out water bottles.

However, if it is more similar to the wicket on which spinners Imran Tahir and J.P. Duminy took seven wickets in South Africa’s quarter-final win over Sri Lanka last week, Doherty might be set for his second start.

The trouble for Australia is that despite the SCG’s tradition for offering turn, it is not always that easy to tell in advance whether a track will or not.

“Last time we played here, it looked like the wicket would spin quite a bit, but it didn’t, it played really true,” Australia opener Aaron Finch said yesterday. “It’s still two days out from the game, so it’s hard to tell, the wicket can change quite a bit here in Sydney in two days.”

Left-armer Doherty did play against Sri Lanka, going for 60 runs without adding to his less-than-stellar tally of 55 wickets in 60 one-day internationals.

Australia captain Michael Clarke is a big fan of including a spin bowler, especially at his home ground, but is no longer a selector.

The committee that meets to decide which players Clarke will lead tomorrow may decide that Australia’s part-time slow bowlers — Glenn Maxwell, Steve Smith, David Warner and even Clarke himself — have enough quality to carry the load.

Certainly, in a perfect world, Australia would like to retain right-arm quick Josh Hazlewood to get stuck into India’s highly regarded batsmen, along with the “Mitchs” — first-choice left-armers Johnson and Starc.

Even though Doherty was given a long workout in the nets yesterday, Johnson thinks it is likely Hazlewood would keep this place and Australia will be unchanged for the first time in the World Cup.

“It’s looking that way, that we’ll have the same XI,” he told Fox Sports at the SCG. “The bowling group’s been going really well. Joshy Hazlewood bowled really well in the last game. To have that stability is really important.”

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