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No love lost at Premadasa

The last time Australia spent a week in Sri Lanka capital, they came and went with 14 players in the squad. Doug Bollinger's replacement was to be named only after Australia had faced hosts Sri Lanka. Amol Karhadkar reports.

cricket Updated: Mar 18, 2011 23:46 IST
Amol Karhadkar

The last time Australia spent a week in Sri Lanka capital, they came and went with 14 players in the squad. Doug Bollinger's replacement was to be named only after Australia had faced hosts Sri Lanka.

Interestingly, as they return to Colombo to cross swords with Pakistan, the squad has swollen to 16 from 14 — one more than the prescribed 15-member squad by the ICC.

With the selectors sending in Michael Hussey as replacement for Doug Bollinger, Australia were left with little choice but fly in Dirk Nannes to provide back-up to pace battery in case any of them joins the injured club.

At the beginning of the tournament, not many gave Australia much chance to defend their three successive World Cup crowns.

The skepticism had much to do with the missing link in their batting line-up — Michael Hussey.

No doubt they had a wicket-keeping all-rounder in Brad Haddin and that 90s man Shane Watson at the top, an in-form Michael Clarke and big-hitting Cameron White in the middle order.

But with skipper Ricky Ponting struggling to find his touch, Australia looked like an engine that could anytime run out of steam.

However, Mike Hussey's inclusion has suddenly changed the face of this Australian side. With the veteran back in the mix, albeit at the expense of his brother David, the kangaroos are suddenly looking capable of going all the way.

How crucial a cog the southpaw, who's coming off a hamstring injury, is in the Australian wheel became evident in his very first game against Kenya where he smashed a 43-ball 54. If that wasn't enough, his eagerness to bat in the nets on Friday here indicated that he's desperate to make the most of the opportunity that was almost lost because of injury.

On a day when most of the regular bowlers opted to rest and other batsmen spent just 10 to 15 minute each in the nets, Hussey preferred to sweat it out, facing the net bowlers in two different stints.

Given his determination, one shouldn't be surprised if he makes the Pakistani bowlers toil on Saturday.

Umar set to replace Shehzad

Meanwhile, Pakistan are set to drop opening batsman Ahmed Shezad, who has failed in all five matches so far. The move will see wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal promoted to the top, and his younger brother Umar batting at No 6.