MELBOURNE // Michael Clarke, the stand-in captain, has denied he will give special treatment to the players attempting to force their way into Australia's World Cup squad when his side meet England in the first one-day international in Melbourne.
Australia are using today's match as a final audition for their fringe players ahead of Wednesday's World Cup squad deadline.
Shaun Tait and Brett Lee, the pace bowlers, are set to go head-to-head as they attempt to complete their late bids for a place in the 15-man squad following injury.
David Hussey will also play his first one-day international since August 2009, while Xavier Doherty, who took four wickets on his debut against Sri Lanka earlier this summer only to suffer a forgettable Ashes series against England, can push his claim to partner Nathan Hauritz, the first-choice spin bowler, on the sub-continent.
With so much riding on the game for those players Clarke is aware they will want adequate opportunity to press their claims, but warned he would only do what was best for the team.
"I don't think it will compromise my captaincy or the team's performance," he said.
"We have one game which is obviously the last opportunity for players to be looked at before the World Cup selection.
"We've got a huge World Cup ahead of us and these seven games [in the series] are pretty important to not only have success in this series but also to build momentum going into that World Cup."
The battle between Tait and Lee, two of the world's fastest bowlers, is the most intriguing.
Both have been beset by injury, with Tait recently returning from an elbow complaint while Lee retired from the longer formats last year to rest his ailing body.
The 34-year-old's decision has been rewarded as he has taken 15 wickets in Australia's domestic 45-over competition this season, the second-most of any bowler.
But while it would seem a straight shoot-out between them, Clarke hinted there may be room for both, alongside fellow pace bowler Mitchell Johnson, in Australia's World Cup squad.
"I see those three guys as quite attacking wicket-taking bowlers," he said. "But when they're bowling well they can also dry the runs up, especially when the ball gets a little bit older.
"If you can get any sort of reverse swing with a bit of protection for the guys they can do that role of bowling fast and straight and dry the runs up.
"Any time the ball is coming at 140-150kmph at you it is hard to start against.
"It is not a bad problem to have when you have three strike bowlers in one squad."
The match will mark the 40th anniversary of limited overs cricket. The first match was also played between these two sides at the MCG on January 5, 1971. Australia won that game by five wickets.
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