Aussies go for extra speed
DESPITE a Test average of 22.77, Mitchell Johnson will assume the all-rounder position and bat at No.7 for Australia in the third Test against Sri Lanka at the SCG starting today.
Johnson was a deserved man of the match in the second Test at the MCG, hitting 92 not out and snaring six wickets.
The selectors decided to rest fellow in-form left-armer Mitchell Starc for that game, and the promoted Jackson Bird bowled with great control to take four wickets for just 61 across both innings.
That left the chief decision-makers with a major headache for this clash, with Bird keeping his spot and Starc coming back into the team.
With all-rounder Shane Watson injured, Australia's captain Michael Clarke said promoting Johnson to No.7 in the batting order was not a knee-jerk reaction to his knock in Melbourne.
Victorian all-rounder Glenn Maxwell, who bowls off spin, will miss out.
That means the hosts will field four quick bowlers and one spinner in Nathan Lyon, despite the SCG being a traditionally spin-friendly wicket.
Regular No.5 Clarke, retiring veteran Mike Hussey and wicketkeeper-batsman Matthew Wade will also move up one spot each.
"With Mitchell Johnson's batting in Melbourne, he's batting as well as an all-rounder now anyway," Clarke said, defending the decision to promote the former Bulls star.
"So I'm confident we've got enough batting still with Matthew Wade at six and Mitchell Johnson at seven, and we've got enough bowling which is a real positive."
Clarke threw his support behind Wade's promotion, despite the fact he has posted just 80 runs so far this series, albeit scoring 69 not out in the first innings of the first Test.
"He's been hitting the ball really well, he hasn't made a big score for a while so I wouldn't be surprised if we see him walk out and make a hundred in this Test match," Clarke said.
There would be no better way for Hussey to go out from the five-day arena than by scoring a hundred in his 79th and final Test.
If he does, he could overtake Ricky Ponting (fourth with 51.85) on the list of Australia's highest batting averages, for those that have played 50 or more Tests. Hussey averages 51.52.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka's horrendous injury toll may have worsened, with fast bowler Shaminda Eranga suffering a freak leg injury while playing a warm-up game of football yesterday.
Wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardene (thumb) appears certain to miss today's match, while paceman Nuwan Kulasekara (ribs) is also in extreme doubt.
A minute's silence will be observed before play in honour of legendary former England captain and Channel Nine commentator Tony Greig, who died after suffering a heart attack on Saturday.
Australia: Ed Cowan, David Warner, Phillip Hughes, Michael Clarke (capt), Michael Hussey, Matthew Wade (wk), Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Jackson Bird, Glenn Maxwell.