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West Indies face stronger Australia

The world champions, seeking a place in the finals, will turn to their heavy hitters on Friday.
PTI | By Agence France-Presse, Brisbane
UPDATED ON JAN 21, 2005 12:44 AM IST

World champions Australia, seeking a third straight win and a place in the finals of the tri-nations competition, will turn to their heavy hitters when they meet West Indies on Friday.

The West Indies face a daunting task in securing their first win as the Australians welcome back the powerful opening combination of Matthew Hayden — who was rested for the first two matches — and Adam Gilchrist, who missed one match with a knee injury.

They are also contemplating bumping out-of-form but renowned one-day slogger Andrew Symonds up the order at Brisbane's Gabba ground in an attempt to make the most of his power-hitting.

The Australians have a wealth of talent to call on, with Michael Clarke -- the fill-in opener for Hayden in the last two matches -- dropping back to the middle order after impressive innings of 66 and 97.

The boost in strike power won't just be limited to the batting, with pace bowler Jason Gillespie shrugging off a calf strain and cleared to play.

Selectors must also decide whether to use all-rounder Shane Watson in place of the in-form spinner Brad Hogg in a four-pronged pace attack.

For the West Indies, winless after matches against Australia and Pakistan, the situation is far bleaker.

All-rounder Chris Gayle further aggravated shoulder tendonitis during their six-wicket loss to Pakistan on Wednesday and may not bowl again on tour.

Without him, captain Brian Lara was forced to rely more upon part-timers Marlon Samuels, Ramnaresh Sarwan and Wavell Hinds who went for a total of 128 runs from 17 overs.

Lara admitted his side was struggling to find the right balance without Gayle. Rising all-rounder Dwayne Bravo, a surprise omission on Wednesday, is likely to return to bolster the attack.

Symonds enters the day-nighter desperate for runs after scoring four ducks from his last five innings for Australia, dating back to September.

He has been in electrifying domestic one-day form during that time but is still no certainty to play ahead of Simon Katich and Darren Lehmann.

Captain Ricky Ponting said Symonds was often on "a hiding to nothing" while trying to score quick runs late in the innings.

Ponting had a lengthy chat with Symonds at training on Thursday and said he felt he was ready to return to the form which had earned him 1,525 runs at 54.46 from the 2003 World Cup until the start of the current season.

"I've watched him closely at training the last couple of days and he's striking the ball nicely," Ponting said.

"That (late order) position he comes in, in our side, can be a hard one to fill.

"Batting any lower than five or six in our side, quite often you only come in until the final overs and you're almost on a hiding to nothing."

Ponting said he had been toying with promoting Symonds to number four since he went for a duck in the four-wicket win against Pakistan on Sunday.

Teams:

Australia (from): Ricky Ponting (c), Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden, Damien Martyn, Andrew Symonds, Darren Lehmann, Michael Clarke, Shane Watson, Brad Hogg, Brett Lee, Jason Gillespie, Michael Kasprowicz.

West Indies (likely): Brian Lara (c), Chris Gayle, Wavell Hinds, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Marlon Samuels, Dwayne Bravo, Courtney Browne, Ian Bradshaw, Mervyn Dillon, Pedro Collins, Xavier Marshall (12th man)

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