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SYDNEY: Australia captain Michael Clarke vowed yesterday to strive for a 3-0 clean sweep against Sri Lanka in the final Test starting today to give retiring batsman Michael Hussey a fitting send-off.
Clarke has opted for a four-man pace attack after Australia’s crushing innings victory against the tourists in last week’s second Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Mitchell Starc returns after being rested, joining quicks Peter Siddle, Jackson Bird, and MCG man-of-the-match Mitchell Johnson on a green Sydney wicket.
Clarke declared himself fit and will bat at four in place of Shane Watson, ruled out with a calf injury. All-rounder Glenn Maxwell was named 12th man, meaning Usman Khawaja misses out.
Although a dead rubber, Clarke said the game had taken on special significance after veteran middle-order batsman Hussey declared it would be his final Test, with the squad determined to see him off with a flourish.
“When guys retire it’s extra special to get a win in that last game for them and I’m certain this Test match will be no different in regards to Michael Hussey,” Clarke said.
“I think a lot of guys will be emotional that Mr Cricket’s finishing up in Test match cricket after this game... we want to make sure that we send him out on a high,” he added.
“Our focus is to win this Test match and to have beaten Sri Lanka 3-0 in this series.”
Clarke said his own hunger for success had increased with news of Hussey’s retirement and he was confident of a big score after making 106 in Melbourne, adding his hamstring had improved.
The skipper said he also hoped that Hussey, 37, who has been in exceptional form, averaging 180.00 in the past two Tests, would make one final Test ton.
Hussey is the second experienced hand to vacate Australia’s middle order this summer, with Ricky Ponting recently calling time on his 17-year career.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka will use the example of their remarkable turnaround on their last tour of South Africa to try and rescue a face-saving third Test victory against Australia, captain Mahela Jayawardene said yesterday.
The bruised and battered tourists were thrashed by an innings and 201-runs inside two and a half days at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) last week to give Australia an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series.
They also lost four players to injury which left the captain struggling to name a side for today’s start to the match with wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardene and fast bowler Nuwan Kulasekara still major doubts.
Jayawardene said that however painful the Melbourne loss had been, a first Test win for his country in Australia and a victorious end to his second stint as captain were still possible.
“The emphasis has been to try and get over that Test match,” Jayawardene, who will step down as skipper after the tour, told reporters. “It happened to us in Centurion last summer where we lost in two and a half days to South Africa and we bounced back in Durban to win the Test match.
“So it’s about guys owning responsibility and doing something about it. We are up against a strong Australian side, who are playing some really good cricket. We need to play to our potential and show we can stand up to that.”
Sri Lanka lost by an innings in Cape Town in late 2011 before beating the South Africans by 208 runs in Durban, although they lost the third Test and the series.
Jayawardene conceded the Sri Lankans had not been at their best in Australia and to make the most of prolific wicket-taker Rangana Herath’s spin bowling, they needed to be in the match in the closing stages.
“If you sit down and look at what we’ve achieved in this series, it’s not hard to say that we haven’t done enough and that we need to stand up and be counted,” he said.
“The best way that we can win a Test match is to try and create a situation for Rangana on a slow turner so we just have to make sure, until the fourth or fifth day, we execute a good game plan and stay in the game,” he said.
Although Prasanna would need a late fitness Test to determine if he could play at all let alone keep wickets with an injured thumb, Dinesh Chandimal will definitely replace the injured Kumar Sangakkara, Jayawardene said.
“He’s a middle-order batsman who we’ve always wanted to invest in,” said the captain.
“Prasanna did not keep wickets the other day, we wanted to give him a couple of days to see how his finger is doing.
“Today he’ll have a fitness Test to see whether he can bat and keep ... (and) once we’ll make a call on Prasanna then we’ll decide where we need to go with that extra vacant position in the line-up.”
Whoever was selected, the outgoing captain said the Sri Lankans must make their huge batting experience count.
“We can’t control how the Aussies are going to bowl but we can control how we bat against it,” he said.
“The last two or three Tests have been a bit of a blip but our strong point has always been our batting, that’s where our experience lies and that’s where we control a lot of the Test matches. We need to take that control back.”