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Aussies hoping to make best of President's XI clash

September 24, 2010 20:00 IST

Ricky Ponting-led Australia will be keen to get vital match practice, and key Indian players returning from injuries are looking to assess their fitness, when the visitors and Board President's XI clash in a three-day practice match in Chandigarh on Saturday.

Skipper Gautam Gambhir and pacer S Sreesanth, who suffered injuries on the Sri Lankan tour, are making a comeback to competitive cricket.

Eyes will also be on Cheteshwar Pujara, who replaced Yuvraj Singh in the Test squad. The Saurashtra batsman is a prolific run-scorer in the domestic circuit, and for quite some time the right-hander was in the reckoning for a place in the national team. His dominance with the bat in domestic circuit can be gauged from the fact that he has scored 14 centuries and 13 fifties in his five-year first class career.

Sreesanth, who hurt his knee in the lead-up to the first Test in Sri Lanka, will be looking to get back his rhythm while Gambhir, who missed the second and third Tests in Sri Lanka with an injured knee, is also be keen to get some runs under his belt before the first Test.

Ponting and batting coach Justin Langer watch Australia's net session on FridayThe Australians, who have been mostly confined to their hotel rooms and gymnasium courtesy inclement weather, will hope to make the most of the time they get out there in the middle.

Ponting and his boys seemed to be getting into the groove with some serious net sessions at the indoor facility of the PCA Stadium.

"It's been raining here earlier on. But now sun has come out finally. Playing against India in any conditions and in any form of the game is tough.

"We need to be as well-prepared, as we possibly can be, and that's why we are here so early before the first Test. To get a practice match against a quality opposition and to get that feel of the conditions is very important," Australia vice-captain Michael Clarke said.

"We just haven't played much Test cricket as a team in India, but we are excited about the possibilities. If we can play our best cricket, I am confident we can beat India in this series," he said.

Doug Bollinger, Marcus North and Tim Paine haven't played a Test in India while specialist spinner Nathan Hauritz played his only Test in the country when he made his debut at Mumbai six years back.

If one goes by weather forecasts, there is a chance of heavy downpour on Saturday.

Skipper Ponting admitted earlier this week that he wants to do well on this tour after having little success on earlier assignments.

Though many players in the current Aussie squad may lack the experience of playing in Indian conditions, coach Tim Nielsen feels that is not going to be much of a bother as long as the players perform to the best of their ability.

Other than Ponting and Clarke, the Aussies have some experienced hands in Simon Katich, pacer Mitchell Johnson and all-rounder Shane Watson.

"The Indian conditions, with low bounce, the heat and humidity, are challenging for a fast bowler but I can vouch that the team wants to win both Tests," Johnson said.

Meanwhile, Jharkhand batsman Saurabh Tiwary, Bengal pacer Ashok Dinda and Hyderabad spinner Pragyan Ojha were named as replacements in the Board President's XI side.

The trio replaced Virat Kohli, Abhimanyu Mithun and Ravichandran Ashwin as their respective teams qualified for the semi-finals in the T20 Champions League.

Left-arm seamer Jaydev Unadkat's performance will also be closely monitored.

Unadkat is yet to play a first class match on home soil. He played two first-class matches during the India A team's tour to UK. A good performance may open the doors in the ODI team for the coming three-match series against the Aussies.

Photograph: Reuters

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