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Clarke to Lead Australia With Ponting Out, Khawaja Gets Debut

Australian Captain Michael Clark
Newly appointed Australian Captain Michael Clarke speaks to the media during a press conference at Sydney Cricket Ground on Dec. 30, 2010 in Sydney. Photographer: Brendon Thorne/Getty Images

Michael Clarke will captain Australia in next week’s fifth Ashes cricket Test against England after Ricky Ponting was ruled out with a broken finger.

Clarke, who has led the team in shorter formats of the game, will lead the Test team for the first time in the Sydney match, which starts Jan. 3, Cricket Australia said today. Usman Khawaja, a Pakistan-born left-hander and the top run scorer in Australia’s Sheffield Shield interstate competition this season, will make his Test debut as Ponting’s batting replacement.

Clarke, who along with Ponting has struggled for runs this season, will be vying to level the series, which England leads 2-1. Clarke’s deputy in Sydney will be Brad Haddin.

“We are sure that both Michael and Brad will lead this Australian side with great professionalism and the full support of the team as we strive for a victory in Sydney,” Chairman of Selectors Andrew Hilditch said in an e-mailed statement.

Ponting fractured the little finger in his left hand when he parried a catch to wicketkeeper Haddin late on day three of the third Test in Perth, which Australia won by 267 runs. He played with the fracture in Melbourne’s Boxing Day Test, which England won by an innings and 157 runs to retain the Ashes for the first time in 24 years.

“Ricky Ponting had a repeat x-ray after the fourth Test which showed evidence that the fracture of his fifth finger has moved during the course of the Melbourne Test,” team physiotherapist Alex Kountouris said in an e-mailed statement.

Ponting’s Injury

Treatment options include surgery or splinting and immobilization, the statement said. Ponting, 36, is expected to resume training in the latter part of Australia’s summer and be fit for next year’s World Cup.

England will head to Sydney with an unbeatable 2-1 lead in the best-of-five contest. As the holder, England will retain the trophy even if Australia wins the last Test and ties the series.

It’s the first time England successfully retained the Ashes since 1986-87, when Mike Gatting’s squad secured a 2-1 win in Australia. That remains the last series victory on Australian soil by a touring England team.

Fast bowler Doug Bollinger was recalled to replace the injured Ryan Harris in Australia’s 12-man squad.

Australia’s squad: Michael Clarke (captain), Brad Haddin (vice-captain), Doug Bollinger, Michael Beer, Phillip Hughes, Ben Hilfenhaus, Mike Hussey, Mitchell Johnson, Usman Khawaja, Peter Siddle, Steven Smith, Shane Watson.

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