Belfast Telegraph

The Ashes: Aussies left with a Pup’s chance of recovery

With the Ashes already lost, Michael Clarke will replace the injured Ricky Ponting as Australia's captain for the Fifth Test which begins in Sydney on Monday.

Although Australia have already lost the Ashes after their stunning defeat in Melbourne, which put England 2-1 ahead, they can still draw the series by winning the final match. The decision to elevate Clarke from the vice-captaincy despite his woeful form indicates that the selectors are not bent on regime change despite the overwhelming feeling of the Aussie public.

The only hint of long-term revision of opinion is that wicketkeeper Brad Haddin will be Clarke's deputy in the Test match.

Clarke got his nickname when he first came into the side at the age of 23 when it was full of legends. He will also be captain in the one-day series following the Ashes. But the selectors made it clear that Ponting will return for the World Cup in February by which time his fractured left little finger will have healed.

His absence means that the Pakistani-born Sydneysider, Usman Khawaja, will make his debut, probably in Ponting's number three spot. If he succeeds there can be no doubt that even if Ponting returns to lead the Test side again he will drop down the order.

The selectors have resisted wholesale changes despite their obvious predicament or indeed virtually any change at all.

Khawaja (24) was born in Islamabad, and has had two accomplished seasons in the Sheffied Shield.

Khawaja aside, the only other amendment is the inclusion in their 12-man squad of Doug Bollinger, who was patently short of fitness in the second Test, for the injured Ryan Harris. It may all be misplaced faith.

While most of the Aussie cricket public appears to think Ponting should now step down, there is no obvious successor and the idea of handing the permanent job to Clarke in his present form is unthinkable, even to this bunch of selectors, who appear at times to have lost the plot.

There is the additional concern that Clarke may not have the backing of the dressing room.

For Australia to square the series, the Pup must learn new tricks.

Belfast Telegraph

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